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  • Friedhelm (Counsellor)

CAN ONE OUTGROW ONE'S SPOUSE?

Updated: Jan 26, 2019

We often hear a divorcee saying that they have separated because they have “outgrown” each other or just grown apart. Why is that? What is going on?


The saying: “Opposites attract each other” is only true for the first period of any relationship. For a happy long-lasting marriage, quite the opposite is true. The more you are the same, the better the chance to “click” and bond long-term.


This truth should be quite obvious. For instance, if one spouse is witty and a humorist but his or her significant other does not “get” it or cannot appreciate it, even takes exception, it becomes a big communication problem and a major obstacle in the relationship. If culture, values and goals differ greatly it will likewise lead to a pull in different directions and cause conflict and strife unless handled well.


The fact that so many couples after an initial good period together discover that they do not match and then separate, means that our initial attraction is probably based on our conscious needs at that stage of our lives. Those needs arise most of the time of our experiences in early years.


Sometimes it is a need to be cared for. In another case it has to do with an insufficiency in personality where the other one makes up for our own shortfalls e.g. the one who is shy and antisocial is attracted to the outgoing and self-confident other. The dreamer marries a “go getter” who’s feet are planted solid in reality and is willing to take the lead in everyday decision making. The co-dependent person will feel he or she needs a dominant controlling figure to face life’s challenges for he or she is not able or does not want to take those responsibilities.


To complicate matters, our original basic need is often of a sexual nature and the initial attraction to the opposite sex is based on looks and appearance. In many instances it begins with desire and this passion drives, fuels and sustains the relationship for a while.


The personality of a potential lover is often not the first consideration when we start a relationship. We don’t think about what it would be like to be married to that person and be living together. We get sexually involved only to realize that this relationship can go nowhere. This is not the person I want to be with for the rest of my life.


Because we grow in age, knowledge, wisdom, skills etc., our needs will change. When we then realize that we want or need other things out of life and start pursuing those, we start growing apart.


People “outgrow” the need to have a “mother” or “daddy” as partner who constantly "mothers" or cares for them. They "outgrow" the need for a "father" figure who controls them and persistently prescribes to them. People “outgrow” the need to regard good sex as more important than living in respect, support and harmony. They “outgrow” dependency on others and become confident and able to handle their own affairs.


Above all, in the middle years (35-50) we often free ourselves from the yoke of behaving as others demand of us or expect from us. The mask of the false self wears thin. We become who we really are. We start living according to what we really want. We start catering vigorously and mostly selfishly for our own needs. Even if we have to sacrifice our marriage, friends or church.


Can couples who have grown apart, change this around? Surely this implies a compromise of some sort and then inner peace and contentment with life. Can this be done? For me this will depend on a number of things:

- The age of the couple

- Their life experiences

- Their ability to compromise

- The acceptance of self and each other

- And their level of spirituality.


As you will notice, this is quite difficult. A monumental task. It requires a fundamental mind shift. The decision to put your spouse first. To see your spouse as a person who, like you, also deserves happiness. To make a commitment to do the best you can for him or her

even if there is no guarantee you will benefit from it. That is what the saviour of the world did. That is the highest form of love. "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (Jesus, in John 15:13)



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