One of the most common phrases we hear in life is, "People change." We often use it as a catch-all for the problems that tear apart relationships. It is as true a statement as any, but why do we treat it like a closing door? We cannot grow without change, and growth can bring us closer together. Of course, there are times when people change in destructive ways, and depending on the nature of the relationship, we may need to proceed with caution. Change is essential to move forward, and our relationships can't live in little boxes separate from our paths. Even in marriage, society accepts the idea that change equals severed ties. We need to bring a new approach if we want our relationships to flourish, and we can start by evaluating the different types of change.
When someone we care about starts doing things that are out of character, we tend to say things like, "You're becoming someone else." Or "You're not the person you used to be." But if that person is forming habits that are hurting them, it's not about them changing; it's about them giving into the weaknesses and self-doubt they've held inside. And often, we do the same thing without realizing it. Sometimes we may even misinterpret someone's positive change as negative because of our insecurities. There are a lot of complex human emotions at play, and our autopilot is to judge based on what affects us.
To live up to our commitments in our relationships, we need to look deeper. We need to acknowledge how our relationships relate to our walk with Jesus. If we marry, our calling is to selflessly support our spouses for better or worse. That means if they start toward a "dark" path, it is our responsibility to counsel and influence them rather than abandon them. (There are some exceptions.) While we do so, we can still set boundaries and express how their choices cause us pain. In that way, we can lead each other to positive change. However, in friendship, we don't hold the same union. If someone mistreats us or engages in unhealthy behavior, it's important to pray about how to proceed. We shouldn't jump to pushing people away to keep them from "dirtying" us, but we also don't have the power to open people's eyes on our time. Sometimes the most loving thing to do is step back and leave that relationship in God's hands.
“Neutral” is the type of change that can cause the most confusion. Especially in romantic connections, it's common to think that it's time to "let go" if one or both parties have changed since the beginning of the relationship. Usually, this type of change involves new interests, career pursuits, or philosophical beliefs. If you start dating someone who works in the same field as you, you might feel like you're growing apart if they switch jobs. That change may not be "bad," but it can seem like the relationship is losing its core. Yet, our relationships are not supposed to stay the same. We are supposed to learn and develop continuously, and we don't have to move on to a new person when we enter a new season. Whether married or single, we are here to seek wisdom and connect with others as we follow Jesus. So we should carefully consider if we are compatible with a potential spouse, and it's okay to realize we're not. However, if we see every change as "time to move on," we won't prepare ourselves for long-lasting relationships. We can enter new territory with others when we are open to expanding our own perspectives.
Change is scary, but it's not a reason to give up when things get complicated. We can reflect that in all of our relationships when we understand that change doesn't have to damage what we already have. We can embrace our connections as dynamics shift in our lives. One question we can ask is, "Where is this change headed?" For example, if you're in a dating relationship, one of you may change your mind about something fundamental, such as having children or where you’re going to live. At that point, it's wise to question your paths, because your goal is to marry someone you are compatible with. On the other hand, if you are in a marriage and your spouse changes their viewpoint on something major, your goal is different. God designed marriage as an ongoing journey where both parties grow side by side, even if not always in the same ways. With God's guidance, the two support each other's growth and struggles and make it theirs. In that scenario, you have committed to heading into the future together, so your mentality shouldn't be, "Can we work this out?" but "How will we work this out?"
There are endless variations of these examples in all kinds of relationships. We need to remember that change isn't always a fork in the road; it is a regular part of our purpose – which is to love God and love people. We should strive to become wiser and reflect new perspectives, so we can look back and see how different we once were. We won't stay the same, and neither will the people around us, but God will. When we trust that He is unwavering, we can navigate our relationships with clarity and peace.
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." -
Written Content Coordinator at Sun Valley Community Church. An avid writer since the age of 5, who loves to explore new ideas and places. Inspired by Jesus, books, and travel.