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Evolution vs. Devolution

Yesterday my partner and I had a fight. We’d just come off of eleven days of family houseguests and we were both live wires — frayed and ready to spark. We had a fight, a small explosion, recovered, and went on to have a lovely night taking our teenage daughter and her cousin out to dinner.


As we drove to the restaurant I reflected on how much my relationship with my partner has evolved. We’ve grown into a more functional, resilient team. We are more complex. We are better than we once were. I’ve been in relationships where this hasn’t been the case, where we’ve devolved. The combination of energies and personalities created a reverse system of movement into something worse, something destructive and unsustainable. And the relationship died; it had to end.


At dinner, the four of us sat outside and enjoyed a long, lazy dinner together. We talked about college, relationships, dreams, fears, possibilities, and obstacles. We laughed, tasted each other’s meals, and asked each other questions. I was keenly aware of how special this experience was. It’s not easy to tie two wildly social sixteen-year-olds down in the heat of the summer, much less engage in two hours of engaged, focused conversation.


Later in the evening when the girls had gone off to do their own thing, my partner and I reflected on how much these two sixteen-year-olds have evolved in the last few years. They live on opposite sides of the country so only see each other once or twice a year but they hold each other up, they support each other and each makes the other better.


The root of evolution is “volv” which means “roll” or “turn around.” Being involved in a relationship — whether it is romantic, professional, friendship, or other — means you are rolling somewhere. You are moving in some direction.


In relationships that are evolving, you are rolling out or forth — expanding, growing, moving into a better state of being. In relationships that are devolving, you are unrolling or coming undone, falling apart, ready to break up.


I’ve been in devolving relationships — both friendship and romantic — and they’ve had to end. In those relationships, I was involved — rolling into — a connection with someone with whom I was not able to grow or expand; I was unable to roll out or towards something more expansive and enriching.


As I’ve aged more of my relationships feel like they are evolving. I have more life experience, a better sense of discernment. I am more in touch with the micro emotions that signify a need for change, a shift in the direction I am rolling.