Outgrowing Each Other, Growing Apart— Why sometimes you’re just not right for each other anymore

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There are many reasons people decide to seek a divorce—and there’s frequently more than one factor that ultimately makes the relationship unsustainable. But growing apart ranks among the top reasons people end their marriage.

One high-profile example involves actor Josh Duhamel, who met pop star Fergie in 2004 on the set of his show “Las Vegas,” when her band, the Black Eyed Peas, made a guest appearance. They married in 2009 and had a son, Axl, in 2013. They seemed happy when they celebrated their 8th wedding anniversary in January 2017, but the pair quietly separated sometime in the next few months.

That autumn, they released a joint statement.

“With absolute love and respect, we decided to separate as a couple earlier this year… to give our family the best opportunity to adjust, we wanted to keep this a private matter before sharing it with the public. We are and will always be united in our support of each other and our family.”

Their divorce became final in late 2019.

Duhamel remarried in 2022 to former Miss America Audra Mari, and the couple is expecting a baby soon. But Duhamel made headlines recently when he finally opened up about his split from his first wife, Fergie, and why the marriage fell apart.

“I think we both agree that we’re very different people,” Duhamel explained in an interview for In Depth with Graham Besinger. “I made peace with that part of my life. She and I have a great relationship. There actually wasn’t anything wrong with it. We had a great time, but I think we just kind of outgrew each other and had very different interests.”

But he also revealed some of what made him and his ex-wife so different.

“I don’t think I ever really got comfortable with all of it… I just missed the simplicity of who I really am. I’m just not a guy who’s comfortable going to red carpets, doing all the Hollywood stuff,” Duhamel said. “The older I got, the more I wanted to come back here [to his home in North Dakota], but that’s not for her… I’ve got no hard feelings; I truly don’t.

Duhamel also confirmed that he and Fergie co-parent well. We made an awesome kid, we get along great, and we get to raise him without any acrimony.” About Fergie, he says, “I’m very lucky she’s a kind human.”

Outgrowing Each Other, Growing Apart. Should You Stay?

A 2018 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology revealed that people in unfulfilling relationships often do so because they think leaving would be too hard on their partner. Earlier research mainly pointed to more self-interested reasons people stay in marriages after they feel they’ve grown apart—it may be the time, emotion, devotion, and resources they’ve invested in the relationship or the difficulty of finding a new partner. Even when you’re unhappy, many reasons for leaving can feel more daunting than staying.

Recent divorce statistics reported this summer by Forbes reveal that in the U.S. today, among couples who eventually divorce, the average length of the marriage before the split is eight years.

Signs of growing apart or outgrowing your partnership

  • You rarely spend quality time together
  • You’re not communicating well
  • Your relationship has lost its spark amid work, family, and household routines.
  • The marriage lacks intimacy (physical and or emotional); there’s distance between you.
  • You or your partner always seem to prioritize things other than the relationship
  • Your vision for the future no longer aligns with your partner’s and you want different things in life
  • You want different things from the relationship than you did when you got together feel more like roommates or like you’re leading separate lives
  • There’s a lack of deep connection
  • The relationship isn’t meeting your current needs or standards.
  • You don’t feel a deep trust or feel like you can fully share yourself and your true feelings with your partner.
  • You don’t “get” each other anymore; you have trouble seeing each other’s point of view and empathizing.
  • You feel like you’ve grown, changed, or matured, and your spouse hasn’t
  • You feel the relationship is holding you back
  • You’re not your true or best self with your partner, the person you want to be; you don’t bring out the best in each other.

Sometimes, the problems are glaringly apparent. Sometimes, they’re subtle and creep up on you slowly. None of these symptoms necessarily mean your marriage is doomed! But ignoring the signs of growing apart, denying the problem, or simply waiting for the relationship to fix itself can make things worse and much more challenging. Burying your feelings, closing off communication, leaving conflicts unresolved—all these factors can erode your partnership, even when you still love each other.

If you’re concerned that you’re growing apart from your spouse and want to try to save your marriage, an essential first step is to start an honest and open conversation; try to share how you’re feeling without blaming or accusing your partner. Look for ways to prioritize each other; be intentional about spending time together, creating closeness, and sparking the flame again. Commit to the hard work of sorting through nagging conflicts. Work with a couples therapist. Some couples find they reconnect and even grow closer when they work through the ways they’ve grown apart.

Research has shown that staying in an unhappy relationship—especially one with a lot of conflict—can negatively impact your mental and physical health. Sometimes, the healthy, necessary step is to leave the marriage and move on. If you’ve decided that your marriage is over, the compassionate and experienced family lawyers at SFLG are here to help you navigate the divorce process as smoothly and amicably as possible.

by Debra Schoenberg

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