“Long Drive” — Jim Furyk by Mimi Stuart ©
Should you push your partner to stop pursuing their passions?
People often push their partner to stop pursuing their interests in favor of spending more time together as a couple. The pursuing partner may genuinely want to spend more time together or he or she may be reacting to feelings of jealousy or insecurity. Feelings of insecurity in particular will cause someone to try to control the other person and become possessive.
Some partners find it uncomfortable to deal with their partner’s insecurities. So they prefer to accommodate them. Often it is their own anxiety in face of a partner who is upset that they cannot tolerate. As a result, when their partner pressures them to give up their interests, they give in quickly in order to avoid conflict.
Long-term problems of appeasement
When your partner appeases you, you may feel temporary relief. However, ongoing appeasement will create long-term problems. The result of repressing one’s own desires can result in a gradual deadening of the soul, growing resentment, boredom, and a loss of passion within the relationship.
When your partner continuously appeases you at the expense of their own interests, they will lose some of their passion for life and for you. Moreover, as appeasement becomes the norm, you will both feel increasingly burdened by an obligation to appease each other. As a result, one or both of you will become more and more vulnerable to the other person’s manipulation.
Long-term intimacy and accommodation
True intimacy evolves when you don’t manipulate your partner to accommodate your needs and desires. Long-term passionate intimacy requires that two people have a strong enough sense of self that each can spend time separately pursuing their own individual interests.
To sustain a long-term passionate relationship, you need to balance two primary drives — the desire for togetherness and the desire for autonomy. While everyone has a different ideal balance point, it is clear that the extremes of too much togetherness or too much independence each generate their own problems.
If you really love someone, you do not want that person to stop pursuing their passions and interests. Nor should you want to make that person feel guilty for pursuing them. It’s not much fun spending time with someone who feels stifled and held back. The very reason you love a person has a lot to do with their vitality and individual interests. So it is both wise and loving to encourage them to continue to pursue their interests.
When you feel threatened by your partner spending time apart from you, rather than controlling your partner, find a way to empower yourself and the relationship.
1. Desire the best for your partner.
You will have a better relationship if your partner is happy. It reflects well on you and you will be more attracted to your partner if your partner is passionate about life rather than unhappy about it.
2. Be curious about your partner’s interests.
You don’t want to become a couple that has nothing to talk about. Don’t feel resentment about your partner’s fishing, golfing, or reading. Instead, ask about their interests, their progress, and other details. Find genuine joy in what they appreciate about their pursuits and passions.
3. Pursue something you enjoy.
Start pursuing your own passions. If you don’t have any, try out different activities, sports, or hobbies, or take some classes. The experience of trying new things will make your life richer. When you keep your life engaged, you enhance your life, which also makes you more interesting to be with. Taking on challenges builds a healthy confidence and joie de vivre. Even failed pursuits make for great stories. All of this will lead you to a more interesting and passionate relationship.
4. Make your time together more enjoyable.
Plan activities together that your partner will want to participate in. Spending some time together is important. Rather than spending that time complaining about your partner’s passions, think about pursuits that you can do together that may be interesting or pleasant for both of you. Talk to your partner about what your interests and passions are.
While it is important to spend some time together, couples keep their relationships alive when they do not spend all their time together. When you encourage your partner to pursue their passions, they will be grateful to be with someone who is truly loving.
Loving someone means respecting their autonomy and wanting them to be truly happy.
Alison Poulsen, PhD