When Your Partner Resents Your Growth

image from Summit Point

“I’m afraid if I change, my family won’t grow with me.” – KG

Hello Everyone!

Thank you for subscribing to my newsletter. Today I want to talk about something that came-up in a group that I am facilitating. The group was created to help women create self-loving habits around food and exercise. We’re about three weeks in and some are hitting road blocks.

One group member courageously shared that what holds her back is realizing that the changes she wants to make could leave her isolated from her family. It wasn’t long after that many others in the group resonated with her experience.

I’d like to speak to this dynamic that is so common in relationships. I call it, the, “Now I see Me” phenomenon. The truth of relationships is that they often reveal our inner lives, the good, the bad, and sometimes the very ugly. Friends, family, coworkers, partners, kids… ALL will bring-up unresolved issues within us. So when someone does something offensive and we find ourselves reacting in a way that is disproportionate to the ‘crime,’ we need to start digging deeper. We need to stop and intentionally search within ourselves for the cause of such a reaction.

“I know that what I was doing was the right thing for me but for some reason, it was like my wife couldn’t stand it.” – LD

Now that will take time, work, and possibly therapy for you to uncover what’s really going on. That’s hard enough as it is. But what do we do when we’re not the one having the disproportionate reaction? Let’s go back to the concept of, “Now I see Me.”

For the sake of clarity, we’ll discuss through the lens of an adult romantic relationship. When your partner is resentful of you for positive changes that you want to make in your life, there’s a good chance that it is due to fear.

Let’s say that you and your partner make a regular habit of drinking to the point of blacking-out every Friday night. It’s been fun sometimes, but horrible at other times. You’ve decided that the horrible times outweigh the good times. There’s something in you that has been whispering, “This is not healthy.” So, you tell your partner you’re not going to do that anymore.

Now your partner’s behavior has been challenged. What was once a joint activity, will now be a solo one. They start to question for a split second if what they are doing is wrong too… Oh shit, now I see ME. This is terrifying. You see, whether it’s drinking, or overeating or whatever, that behavior was serving a purpose. Most likely, the behavior was allowing you both to escape or hide from an emotion or truth that is uncomfortable. Most people aren’t aware of this but when their behavior is challenged, some very intense emotions rise-up. Fear is incredibly powerful.

“My boyfriend and I had huge issues when I started changing my eating and exercise habits. He said he was afraid I’d think I was too good for him.” – LM

“Now I see Me,” is saying now I see my brokenness. And now they could be terrified that you’re going to see it too. They may fear that you will come to a place where you think you’re better than them and leave. Remember how I just said that fear is incredibly powerful? Well, for humans, an intrinsically social species, fear of being alone is the probably among the worst and being LEFT leaves a particularly deep wound.

In my practice, have seen couples with this dynamic- when one is ready to explore and grow and the other is digging their heels in the ground. This is actually very normal. We’re talking about two separate individuals, each on their own life journey. To expect us to always be in the same place at the same time is unrealistic. However, it is not acceptable or healthy for one to demand that the other not grow. It also isn’t healthy for one to want to change but not to do so out of fear of the other’s reaction.

So what do you do?? 

If this dynamic is happening in your relationship, I recommend that you sit down with your partner and assure them that they are loved. You have realized that you need to make some changes in your life so that you can enjoy life more. You’re hoping that these changes will positively effect all areas of your life, including your relationship with them. Maybe come-up with creative ideas that will allow opportunities for the two of you to connect in another way.

If this still doesn’t work… If your partner gets even more angry, tries to sabotage your success, or if you are still struggling to allow yourself to change. You may be dealing with something deeper than normal relational fears. At this point, I would recommend trying out a CoDa meeting and, if your partner is willing, couples therapy. If they are not willing to attend therapy with you, you may need to seek individual therapy.

If something has been tugging at your heart, telling you it’s time to make a change… listen.

I can relate to this scenario from both sides. I know what it’s like to encounter resentment when I want to grow and I have also felt that fear of possible rejection. I’m human and it’s completely normal. So don’t get down on yourself if you find yourself in these words today. Just know that it means that you desire connection, like every single one of us. Now we just need to figure out how you can Explore, Grow, AND stay Connected to those you love.

For a little while, this part of your journey may feel a little lonely, but it won’t always be that way. As you grow more into the person you are meant to be, you will find that you can have more grace and compassion for your partner. When they are ready to join you, and I hope it’s soon, your relationship will be more fulfilling than it ever could have been if you stayed stuck.

If you think you need someone to help you navigate this journey, or maybe you’re not sure if you do or not- I would love to speak with you about your specific situation. I offer a free 30 minute phone consultation so we can discuss your unique needs. I want to see you grow into the person you want to be and I want to see you have deep, meaningful connections with those you love. Call me today, I would be honored to hear your story.

Take Care,

MS Clinical Psychology, LMFT-A



Visionary Family Counseling

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