“If people love you they want you to grow. If people don’t want you to grow, then you can call the feelings they have for you by many names, but you can’t call it love.” – Rob Bell
There is a lot of excitement around the start of the New Year.
New Year, New You
Starting fresh, a clean slate.
It’s exciting to think of all the newness that lies ahead in the next 365 days.
And with all this newness comes change and with change comes growth.
But change can be difficult to the dynamics of a relationship whether that be a romantic partner, a friend, a family member, or a co-worker.
To some people change can be totally exhilarating; to others there is comfort in what is known. That’s not to say that one way is better than the other but it can be difficult when one person decides to make big changes. It shakes things up.
And while it’s nice to think that people love & support us no matter what, some relationships can be based on conditional love.
Conditional love says I’ll love you as long as you adhere to my idea of who you are.
Unconditional love says I love you/support you no matter what.
I’ve been in relationships where I’ve been a ‘conditional love’ person. It’s easy to get caught in the trap of who we think someone should be and when they aren’t, or they change, well it can be uncomfortable.
It’s also uncomfortable to be on the other end of it – the person that is changing. It can be difficult when we are making changes and really excited for the new things that are happening in life and well, we aren’t met with that same enthusiasm by others close to us.
And while it may hurt to not get the support you had hoped for, it’s important to see the other’s perspective actually has nothing to do with you.
Yes, that may sound strange but hear me out.
Oftentimes when one person is going through significant change/growth, it is triggering something in the other person.
Back-handed compliments, passive aggressive behavior, comments that try to scare you out of making a change; all indications that you may have set off those change gremlins in another person.
Here are a few reasons why:
- If you are changing, it likely requires some change from the other person which is making them uncomfortable.
“Great, you’re quitting drinking. Now who am I going to go to the bars with on the weekend??”
- Your change triggers something in them – you may be acting as a mirror for changes they want/need to make in their own life.
“Wow, I had no idea you were going for that promotion. I wanted that job a long time ago but they never promote anyone on this team.”
- They could just simply be scared for you.
“I could never do what you’re doing. I don’t know how you’ll make that work.”
Wow, thanks for the support?!
Remember that regardless of the motivation of the comment, the reasoning has more to do with them than it does you. Yes, they may be scared for you, but that is simply based on their own outlook on change/the unknown. What you are doing is simply activating that response in them.
Martha Beck calls these lackluster responses ‘change-back attacks.’ I love you just the way you were.
And while it would be easy to fight change-back attacks with anger, harsh words, and ‘why don’t you love me’ type comments, try going the route of openness and compassion.
Meet the other person where they are in their thinking. Listen to what they have to say but stay really focused on your ‘why’; in other words, your deepest reason for making the change. Maybe it’s to lead a healthier lifestyle, or feel more challenged at work, or to follow a dream that’s been in your heart for a long time. Speak openly about why this is important to you while also genuinely listening to what the other person has to say.
This may lead to a breakthrough of understanding or it may not but at least you were able to speak your truth and were able to do so with calm and grace.
Stay true to who you are and what is important to you. The right people will stick around or make their way into your life and want nothing but the best for you: for you to shine and to grow into the person that you (and they) know you are.
Here’s to making 2015 a year of great change!