Our spouses often see us at our best and our worst. In relationships, we encounter a gamut of emotions from joy, sadness, frustration, happiness, and pain. Partners in growth-oriented relationships aim to work together through difficult events. They focus on gratitude and positive aspects of both the romantic relationship and their personal lives. With this approach, both partners work to build a healthy relationship and become the best versions of themselves. Individuals in these relationships feel inspired to become a better person and expand their world in all areas of their lives.
What Does Growth in Relationships Look Like?
It’s fairly easy to spot a growth oriented relationship. Individuals in these relationships are excited to discuss what the future looks like with their partner and are actively making plans that include them. They adapt to each other and compliment each other on their progress. They are encouraging, respectful, and support one another in their goals challenges.
There are several things that indicate growth in a romantic relationship. One big indicator is that you and your spouse have little to no difficulty being vulnerable with each other. This looks like talking about your feelings, admitting your faults, and apologizing when you mess up. Just as important as sharing your own vulnerability is the ability to listen and accept your partner’s vulnerability as well.
Another indicator of growth is that disagreements don’t start or turn into huge blowouts. Disagreeing with your partner is healthy, normal, and a big facilitator of growth. Common disagreements can be caused by friends, close family, difference of opinion, and many other different kind of trending topics. Two individuals who have grown in their relationship are able to talk about their feelings in real time instead of harboring resentment. They are also able to stick to the topic at hand, as opposed to bringing up other unresolved issues from the past. In other words, strong communication and established conflict resolution skills are paramount to a growing romantic relationship.
Push each other to keeping growing personally
Personal growth is hard work. It doesn’t come without challenges, new experiences, and sometimes failure. Parters in growth-oriented relationships eventually learn how to push and support each other in their own personal growth.
One way to do this is to let go of the need to compete with each other. Comparing your life plan with your partner’s is one way of saying you’re not accepting the differences between you. Recognize that you’re a team and figure out what your partner needs to live their best life along side you.
Give up the need to be right
While a healthy amount of arguing isn’t a bad thing in a relationship, the need to win or constantly be right can hold couples back from growing together. It truly doesn’t usually matter who is right so long as both parties are satisfied with the resolution if the conflict. Giving up the need to be right and leaning into compromise can help you and your partner grow together and promote better conflict management for the future.
Create shared interests
It’s important to have your own interests – in fact, your partner loves you for the person that you are. However, having some shared interests can help strengthen the bond and connection between two individuals. Perhaps there’s an activity that your partner is passionate about that they have been trying to get you involved in or vice versa. If you’re apprehensive, consider giving it a try. Maybe you’ve both been eyeing an activity to do together, but haven’t yet gotten your feet wet. Shared interests give us more opportunities to engage with our partner. Some can also help to build stronger communication skills that can be useful having hard conversations down the road.
Give each other space
Alone time is important to foster a sense of individual self. If you are feeling annoyed, irritated, or simply just want some time to explore your own interests, discuss this with your spouse. Let them know that seeking alone time is good for the health of your romantic love, and ask if there is anything you can do to support them in seeking out some alone time for themselves. Never feel guilty for wanting space to recharge in your relationship.
Focus on the good
It’s easy be critical of ourselves and our partners. We may nitpick or focus on what’s not working or worry about the thing that may go wrong in the future. Focusing on what you and your partner do well in the present can held build a strong foundation growth. Try notice what your partner does right as well as what the two of you do well as a partnership. Don’t forget to notice your own strengths as well! In doing this, you’ll create a foundation of support for the time you do need to offer feedback to your spouse.
Be open to new opportunities
We can often become closed off and set in our ways. Life can start to feel drab and monotonous and this can directly affect our romantic relationship. Over time, we are unwilling to listen to new ideas and become complacent in our own small world. Those who are open to new opportunities are more likely to grow personally and romantically. This is easy to put into practice with your partner. You can start small by trying out a new restaurant or signing up for a class together that you might not normally take. By taking small risks, you may find new ways to experience the world together. Over time, you may jump into bigger opportunities, like traveling to new places, or even moving to a new city! Stay open and adventurous!
How to continuously grow as a couple
Keep each other accountable to personal growth
Do you know your partner’s true purpose? Do they know yours? Having purpose creates more meaning for an individual, thus helping them lead a fuller and more meaningful life. Discussing your personal and professional dreams with your partner is a great way to build accountability and purpose into your life and romantic relationship. Holding each other accountable can provide space to discuss challenges, encourage each other to stay positive, and offer up advice. Additionally, you can learn new things about each other and get a more in-depth look into each other’s lives.
Show appreciation for each other’s contributions to the relationship
There are many different ways to show appreciation in romantic relationships. Maintaining connection can be a challenge and showing appreciation is one of the most important ways to maintain connection. Think about how you enjoy receiving recognition or appreciation from your significant other. This is called your love language, and often times yours may be different from your partners.Do you prefer words of affirmation? Gifts? Acts of Service? Quality time? Physical touch? What does your partner prefer? If you’re not sure, consider taking a love languages quiz with your spouse to promote growth in how you show appreciation to each other.
Start planning ahead
Talk about your dreams with your partner and encourage them to share what they want out of life with you. Plan and set goals to get to where you both feel good about the growth in your relationship. Whether it’s marriage, children, travel, or opening yourselves up to other new experiences, creating a plan will make it more likely that it will happen.
Seek help if you need it
Counseling can do amazing things for both individuals and couples. If you are struggling to connect or communicate with your partner, consider seeking out a couples therapist to help you and your partner work through difficult conversations by building communication and conflict resolution skills.
Keep track of and celebrate your growth
The easiest way to celebrate growth is to celebrate your anniversary. In addition to going out to your favorite restaurant, consider sharing some of your favorite photos or moments throughout the year. The are other things worth celebrating as a couple as well, like buying a new house or paying off shared debt. Be sure to celebrate individual growth in your relationship as well. If your partner gets a promotion or finished something difficult at work be sure to celebrate them! Be vocal about your accomplishments and express your desire to celebrate with your partner. Use these opportunities to share your individual and shared dreams and have a conversation about how you and your partner can work to achieve them.
Why do some relationships stop growing?
Relationships can cease to grow for several reasons. For some couples, it comes down to communication and conflict resolution. Unresolved issues can create resentment in a relationship, making it difficult for a couple support each other and work together. Growth in a relationship can also be halted by an individual. In one person is struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues, it can affect the overall growth and connection in the relationship. If you find that you’re struggling in your relationship and other aspects of your life, individual counseling can be beneficial. Individual counseling can help to identify what may be holding you back being the best version of yourself which will help to strengthen your partnership.