Game changer. This isn’t a very well-known phrase in dating and relationship circles but it’s a very common experience: it just gets called different things. It can be called: an affair, a new person, an epiphany, a mid-life crisis. It can also be called: drifting apart, changing too much / changing differently, having different needs. All of these things happen because of a game changer.
Game changers are often people: the new person at work, the new friend made at an event, a chance encounter with someone we used to know but they can also be things: books, films, songs, life experiences. They are anything that causes a shift, or shifting, in how a person views the world, their relationships, their needs and themselves.
I have a friend whose change in job and the subsequent travelling and increase in confidence and interaction with others caused a huge amount of personal growth. A twenty year relationship ended as a result of that change: something he had never even imagined was possible only a few years before it happened.
Game changers do not have to be people. They can also be books, songs, experiences.
A similar thing happened to me. I read a book about stopping drinking and chose to stop (fully for seven years and now I only drink very occasionally, i.e. a few times a year I will have a glass of wine). What I could never have anticipated is the other changes that that one change caused – the effect it had on my self awareness and confidence was huge. Over the course of that seven years I went from being a monogamous, suburban housewife to a bi, poly, kinky writer, coach and public speaker. I am more confident, happy and self-aware than before and also very much aware that that one change sparked a huge shift in what I understood about myself and my needs. For others, the game changer can be an experience, a place, a film, a person or even a song. During that seven years, certain images and words that I had never really seen or heard before that fundamentally shifted how I understood myself. We do not, and cannot, know what we do not know about ourselves, as well as others.
What if the game changer is meeting yourself? What if it is seeing who you are and what you need right now with absolute clarity?
Most of us are terrified of change that we do not choose. We also often fail to see that every change will have unexpected, and unintended, consequences. We’re not in control of how one shift will ripple though the rest of our lives as well as the lives of those around us.
Many people in long term relationships, whether open/poly or monogamous, dread the idea of their partner meeting someone who changes how they think, feel and understand their needs. But, what if that can also be a book, a movie or a song? How far do we have to go before we can see that we are NOT in control of the influences that impact on ourselves or the people we care about? Once we see it like this we can see how crazy it would be if we were to try and keep our relationships safe from ALL or ANY potentially life changing experience.
Change is at the heart of this feeling of dread. We are not in control of life and, when we truly see this, that can feel scary as well as exciting. But mostly scary. So what can we do to help manage the inevitable changes that come along during a lifetime?
We need to learn to accept and understand that change is part of life but, mostly, it’s about learning to trust life and in your own ability to feel, and live, through any and all experiences. As German poet Rilke wrote: Life is in the right, always. Think about some of the changes you have gone through already: body changes, a house move, changes in music taste or food preferences, a change of job or school. It can be useful to look at how much change has always played a part in your life and also to look carefully at which changes our society and culture treat as “good” and the ones it treats as “bad”. This is where learning to let go of binary thinking, of categorising things as “good” or “bad” can be really helpful (Alethya recommends: Life Isn’t Binary by Alex Iantaffi and Meg-John Barker) as well as this piece of writing on binary thinking). Thinking about change in this context allows us to consider what lies beyond the binary of good /bad and to get closer to the fact that, in truth, no experience is purely one or the other, it is almost always a mix of both.
Learning to handle change is about learning to trust ourselves, to trust in our ability to handle whatever comes our way as well as in our ability to handle change even when it is the last thing we expected of ourselves, let alone other people. It’s about trusting that we so know what we need even when those needs are different to what they used to be. Even if, and often especially when, acting on those needs means a lot of change has to happen, we need to trust that “life is in the right” and that the intuitions we have can, and should, be believed.
Trusting life is about learning to let go of thinking that you know exactly how life should look and to relax into the flow of how life actually is. To feel how you actually feel and act on what you actually need as opposed to what society and culture, and even family and personal behavioural patterns, tell you that you should need/want. We have to hold the idea of our ability to handle life, to hold the idea that life is in the right, very close to our hearts.
Change, in the form of game changers or even less earth-shattering shifts, can be really tough and yet it is just that: change. It might look and feel like loss, and it really can and does hurt, but change is, likely, as much a beginning as an end. The real game changer is when you can take that leap of faith in your relationship with life itself and just trust it.