That lovesick college coed can turn into a different woman ten or twenty years down the line, explains Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, a psychologist and social worker in Sarosota, Florida who's doing research on women's relationships. "Many college students' brains haven't finished maturing yet," she explains. "Unfortunately, many couples part because they feel as though they've grown apart. And they probably have. After all, they've likely hit their stride and focused their values, skills, interests and goals more clearly."
Sometimes, changes bubble up when the husband starts saying "You are not the girl I married." He sulks about that or sneaks around having an affair. This happened to Sharon, a marriage counselor of all things, who met Jake at 15, married him at 21, and saw the marriage disintegrate 27 years later. Her husband had known her as an insecure girl. Once she became a woman—a respected therapist, worldwide speaker and well-known community volunteer—the relationship balance shifted, and tipping that scale changed things. Experts say situations like this arise partially because people don't understand personal growth through the stages of adult development.
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How do you know if you have really outgrown the relationship or if these feelings are just a passing phase? Don't panic or think divorce just yet, Dr. Wish advises. Seek counseling, or have a conversation with yourself, says Dr. Wish. Ask and answer the following questions: Do I respect and like him? Does his behavior show me that he is a team player who brings competence, caring, respect and complementary aspects that balance mine? And do we share common values, lifestyles, interests, maturity, passion and commitment to the relationship? "Write down all the reasons you love and chose him in the beginning, and ask yourself if these reasons are still active and important," she explains. Honest answers might reinforce or redirect the path you think you've chosen.