I’ve been self-learning French for a bit over a year now and having steady conversation exchanges with language partners for about six months. I’ve talked to at least 15 partners, a lot of them one-offs, but I’ve consistently talked to three partners every week for the past six months.
One of my partners has been a lovely retired lady living with her husband in the south of France.
Over the past months, we’ve talked about our lives and our day-to-day to day routine, exchanged travel stories, and learned about each other’s culture. Our conversations have been fun and I’ve enjoyed learning about how there’s a garden by her house with a silver owl sculpture, that she does yoga and plays piano, and how her English classes have been going.
But recently, I’ve been getting this demotivated feeling when our weekly calls approach.
I suppressed the thoughts for a while, thinking that this must be the part of the language learning journey when the going gets tough, but then again, I don’t have this avoidant feeling with my other language partners. I ignored the thoughts for a while, continuing our weekly conversations — half in French, half in English — until one day, when our normal time rolled around, I couldn’t bring myself to ping her. I just didn’t feel like talking to her.
After sitting and unpacking the feeling, I’ve realized that we might be at the end of the road of our conversation exchange relationship. It was a somber realization, especially since the past six months have been great. But I know I needed to move on and allow myself to grow.
Here are three signs to look out for in a relationship that might signal something’s not working.
1. You’re not growing or progressing anymore
In the beginning, when my language ability was lower, I enjoyed talking about rising Covid cases and restrictions. But as time went on, I mastered all the vocabulary with closures, restaurant capacity, take-out, curfew, travel — you name it. I felt uninspired by our conversations (and admittedly, the world), and wasn’t excited anymore.
The same goes for a relationship.
If you’ve reached a point of stagnation and comfort in your relationship, that’s fine. But if one of you wants to continue to grow and learn, but the structure and support are not there in the relationship, it’s going to be hard to walk that path. Try communicating your needs with your partner to see if there’s a way you can work it out.
2. There’s no more compatibility
And that’s what I tried to do with my language partner.
To try to quell my dwindling excitement in talking about my stagnant life, I proposed other topics to discuss in hopes of learning vocabulary in other realms, such as technology, social media, and politics.
However, my language partner admitted she didn’t know much about technology, didn’t use social media, and didn’t have much to say about politics. It wasn’t just hard to find other topics to talk about, but I also wanted her to ask questions to fuel the discussion, but she was more of a listener.
This shift of need led to a lack of compatibility.
In a relationship, it’s natural for needs to change, because you are growing as individuals, as well as together. It’s important to be able to remain compatible with your needs, so you can continue to bloom together. However, when that compatibility is gone, one person is going to feel unsatisfied.
3. You don’t want to compromise anymore
One thing that I felt was lacking from this exchange was that my partner wasn’t able to type new vocab into the chat, as she admitted she wasn’t good with technology.
I’m a visual learner, so this, along with the crazy sounds in French, makes seeing a new word of phrase immensely helpful.
In the beginning, I let it slide; I’d jot down my best guess of the word paired with the English definition and look it up later.
But as my vocabulary improved, I was at a point where I was learning fuller phrases, tenses, and sayings, and I was frustrated by not being able to see the text. I no longer wanted to compromise on something that I knew was slowing my learning, even though it was okay in the beginning when I was looking up simpler words.
As I mentioned, you grow in a relationship and your needs naturally change.
Some things that you were once okay with may not be an okay compromise anymore. Some examples of things I can think of are your hobbies, your goals, travel plans, family plans, and money. This is not an exhaustive list, but tl;dr: if you don’t want to compromise on something, you shouldn’t have to and it may be a sign in your relationship you should listen to.
A Reminder: They can be a great person, but not the right person.
I’m sad to be walking away after six months of getting to know this wonderful and kind French lady. It feels wrong and bittersweet, but I know that I cannot continue to progress in my learning and language ability with her anymore.
We’ve grown a lot together during these months, and I will remember those enjoyable conversations. But at this point, I need more. My language skills have grown beyond pleasantries and describing how the pandemic has upended my life.
In the same vein, your partner can be a super wonderful, loving human being, but at the end of the day, if your gut is telling you something’s off and something’s not working, make sure to pause and listen. And if you decide the relationship has run its course, it doesn’t mean you’re negating the time you’ve spent and memories you’ve built together. Not at all— that time is special and magical and makes you, you.
But you also deserve a relationship where you can continue to grow, both as an individual and together, be on the same page, and where you don’t have to make any compromises you don’t want to make.