Same starting point, different paths

posted by Jeff | Friday, May 24, 2013, 11:31 PM | comments: 0

I met up with a friend today that I've known for almost 20 years. What started as lunch turned into a four-hour conversation. We admittedly don't talk that often, but this is one of those many situations where I can reconnect with someone and get deep as if no time has passed at all. I'm fortunate to know a lot of people like this, and I'm guilty of not better taking advantage of these relationships. It's not to call in favors, but to learn more about literally everything.

The recurring theme of our conversation is how we all start things from common ground, but often end up on diverging paths. This is certainly true for careers. Other than people in specific career fields like education or medicine, I don't know many who end up doing exactly what they expected for decades. It's also true for relationships. Certainly every relationship starts at a common point, but the people often go in different directions.

This is hard to explain to some people. I know a lot of people split for pretty solid reasons, like Chris Hansen catching a husband as a predator (true story). Sometimes it's even scarier things, like physical abuse. But I think there's a big category of people who split for more boring, subtle reasons, where two people have just gone in different directions in terms of their... relationship functionality. It's not that anyone is really at fault, it's just that one person grows more, or maybe the other has drastically changing priorities, or one simply can't get what they need from the other.

I definitely categorize my first marriage in this category of different paths. There's no question that we loved each other to death, but there were definitely a combination of things that changed over the course of our relationship that ultimately made us better candidates for friendship than marriage. We can see things that we both could have done differently, but perhaps it just wasn't in our capacity to do so at the time.

This begs the question, is there something you can do to prevent this divergent path? That's hard to answer. It's true that some people never change, others change a great deal. It just depends so much on how people are wired, and the tolerance and accommodation on the part of a couple to handle change. I used to be awful at change, but I look at how much Diana and I have changed in the six years we've known each other and it's staggering. We've moved three times, had a constantly changing child, and she has even gone from work to stay-at-home mom. We seem to be wired to handle this and stay on the same path, but 10-years-ago me would have never made it. So much of it is timing.

I'm reminded of a time that I sat down with one of my volleyball teams, and explained to a bunch of over-achieving teenage girls that everything they expected to transpire in the next 10 years would probably not happen. Indeed, they were all starting from the same place, but they would all end up going down very different roads from each other, and even from their own expectations. It's not that this was necessarily bad, but I think it's important to have awareness when the things you do, or the relationships you're in, no longer serve you. Sometimes that new road is all you've got, and you need to embrace it.


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