Updated: Feb 20, 2020
Having a supportive and loving relationship is one of the great joys in life. However, as we’ve talked about throughout this series on relationship lessons for young adults, creating and maintaining this type of relationship is not easy. In my previous posts, I’ve talked about how relationships take work and the importance of not making your significant other your higher power. In this third and final lesson on relationships, I want to talk about something that has been incredibly important in my marriage: growth.
Growth is something that will inevitably happen to both members of a couple as they get older and go through life’s challenges. In an unhealthy relationship, one or both spouses try to control the other’s growth or prevent it altogether out of fear. However, this almost always ends badly. If we love someone, we must encourage and support their growth just as we encourage and support our own. Here is how to be open to growth in your relationship and utilize it to create a deeper and more fulfilling bond.
Grow Together and Separately
There will be many times that you and your spouse will get the chance to grow together, such as when you become parents. However, there are also times when you’ll need to do your own growth independent of the other. When you keep an open mind and realize you don’t have all the answers, it’s easier to embrace challenges, learn new information, and become a better person. Jealousy often happens when one member of a couple sees the other growing or changing in ways they don’t understand or share and this can be very toxic to a relationship. Resisting growth and change for your own personal development is also damaging. It’s valuable to picture your relationships like an ocean. There will be ebbs and flows; times of togetherness and times of being separate. If your connection is strong, you will always come back together and be able to share what you have learned to foster your growth as a couple.
Encourage Growth of Your Partner
As your partner goes through life, he or she will become interested in different things, change careers, experience health challenges, and be exposed to thousands of life events that will change who they are. When you try to prevent or discourage these changes, you are acting in a controlling and harmful manner. When we love someone, we should always want the best for them—even if it appears in the beginning like it’s taking time or energy away from us or our relationship. However, it’s vitally important that both members of a couple provide support and encouragement for their partner’s growth and understand that it will only make their union stronger in the long run.
Many couples make the mistake of thinking they both have to think and feel the same way—especially about major issues. However, they fail to see that differences can often be their greatest source of strength as a couple. For instance, I jump right into things without a lot of planning while my wife is much more of an analytic planner. Instead of getting angry at each other for being different, we use it to our advantage. She prevents me from making rash decisions while I spur her into action when she gets trapped in ‘analysis paralysis’. If we both thought and felt the same way all the time, we could easily stagnate. Once you realize that healthy differences and disagreements can provide value, you’ll stop viewing them as problems and start seeing them as beneficial.
Relationships can be incredibly fulfilling—but they also require time, energy, and understanding as they evolve. I hope these lessons on relationship building have been helpful for my young adult readers.
If you have any questions about finding, creating, or maintaining a healthy relationship, please leave it below!