10 Ways Relationships Help Individuals Grow

Is your relationship helping you grow as a person?

Posted Jun 18, 2012

//www.flickr.com/photos/stylishjo/170739189/ License: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
Source: In Love by Josefina Herrera. http://www.flickr.com/photos/stylishjo/170739189/ License: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

In happy relationships, people typically have a sense that they're growing as a person due to being in the relationship. Here are 10 ways your relationship might be helping you flourish.

1. Your partner sees you more positively than you see yourself.

Over time, you incorporate these more positive perceptions into your self-view. You get an expanded sense of your positive attributes or talents.

For example, your partner thinks you're smarter or nicer than you believe you are, and eventually, you come to believe they're right. This leads to you behaving more confidently, which in turn has rewards for you.

Or you've always been insecure about a particular feature of your body and covered it with makeup, a specific hairstyle, or loose clothing, but your partner helps you realize that that feature can still be seen as very attractive.

2. Your partner introduces you to things you like. You get new opportunities for pleasurable experiences and an expanded sense of self.

For example, say your partner enjoys bicycle camping. Maybe you never would have tried this if it wasn't for your partner's influence.

Or you never would have considered watching Battlestar Galactica but your partner loves it, so you try watching it. You realize you like genres of TV that previously you wouldn't have considered, and this opens up new opportunities and things you enjoy.

3. Your partner's good habits rub off on you—including health, finance, lifestyle, or psychological habits.

For example, health-related habits could include anything from flossing to jogging to taking medication appropriately when you have pain, rather than just putting up with it.

When it comes to finance-related habits, it's possible that, for instance, your partner's retirement savings plan encourages you to get one, too. Lifestyle habits could include taking weekends off; psychological habits might be something like not personalizing things that aren't personal.

4. Your partner encourages you to be yourself.

For example, you love singing. You sing all the time at home and your partner encourages you to sing in a concert. Or you're a very fun person who loves to joke. Your partner also loves to joke, or just likes your joking and sense of fun and supports you expressing this positive aspect of yourself.

5. Your relationship provides practical support that allows you to pursue your personal goals.

For example, you can start a business because you can rely on your partner's income while you're getting your business going. 

6. Your relationship provides emotional support that helps you persist with hard things.

For example, this support could come while you're at graduate school, looking for a job, or starting a business. On days when you're feeling disappointed or demoralized, you can come home to a hug.

7. Your relationship helps you learn to trust that another person will be dependable and emotionally available to you.

If you start out most relationships being very worried that your partner is going to abandon you—but, over time, you realize this doesn't happen—you'll become more trusting and open.

8. You relationship helps you learn to trust that you're an emotionally dependable person.

You might doubt your own capacity to be a reliable support to another person, but over time you realize you're emotionally dependable. You grow because you learn you have the capacity to emotionally support your partner.

9. Your relationship helps you with self-acceptance.

You learn to take emotional risks with your partner. You tell them about things you're anxious or ashamed about. They still love you and this helps with self acceptance. For people who worry that they're unlovable, a good relationship can prove this wrong.

10. Your partner doesn't appreciate or support your negative patterns and thus makes you more willing to change in positive ways.

For example, your partner doesn't tolerate you being excessively dramatic. You learn there is no benefit to this and stop for the sake of the relationship—but it also helps you elsewhere in your life.

Perhaps your partner doesn't let racist or homophobic statements slide, even unintentional ones. They call you on these things and you change for the better.

Self-Reflection

If you enjoy self-reflection, try writing an example from your own relationship that fits into each of the above ten categories.

You can read my prior articles for Psychology Today here.