"Know the price of success, dedication, hard work, and an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen."-Frank Lloyd Wright
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Contrary to popular belief, healthy relationships aren’t the ones where you and your partner are motivating each other to go another lap or to push each other through a leg cramp at the gym. This dynamic identifies contentment, but not well-being. Healthy relationships are much more complex, fluid, dynamic, and deeper than simply checking your minutes per mile or how you both take your coffee. there are several key differences between contentment or happiness — which some would argue as a mood or feeling — and well-being, which is viewed as a state of being. For example, we can feel happy with our partner where we’re in a joyous mood or having a good time around them. This is happiness, or being content at the moment. Does this mean we’re making each other a better person or reaching well-being? Nope. It means we’re having a good time. Well-being, on the other hand, runs much deeper.
Well-being is where you and your partner are pushing each other to become the best versions of yourselves — how we face and move past our fears, how we address our emotional unavailability or fear of intimacy, how we conquer our self-imposed limitations, and how we accept and stop our self-sabotaging behavior, childhood conditioning and learned toxic habits — these are what constitute well being. In order to reach this level of well-being in our relationships, we need to move past simply feeling content, or merely happy and focus on growth. But, growth is painful. No one ever tells you that to conquer our emotional, spiritual, and mental growth we’re going to be facing an uphill battle. Why? Because most people would duck and run and choose to be “content” instead…because it’s easier. However, those in a healthy relationship understand the uphill battle and support each other through it. There’s no simple or easy route to self-improvement or becoming the best version of ourselves. There are, however, several key ingredients needed in order to reach your highest potential in your relationship.
Becoming The Best Versions of Yourselves When we’re choosing to become the best version of ourselves — both for ourselves, and our partner — we’re making a cognizant choice to be completely transparent and authentic with them, with ourselves, and with our starting point. There’s an unspoken understanding between partners (or, there should be, anyway..) where we intuitively ‘get it’ where we’re both coming from. It’s common for one partner to be further along on the personal growth continuum than the other partner, and this is something that both partners should openly and honestly speak about, from the get-go. There’s no shame in where our starting point is. The shame, however, will rear its ugly head when the ego tries to step in and take over. So, toss out ego and instead choose to be vulnerable with each other.
Positively Challenge Each Other
What do I mean by positive challenges? Again, I’m not talking about trips to the gym or who’s the better driver. I’m talking about pushing each other to recognize your limitations and to be comfortable addressing them with each other. If communication is a challenge, the only way to overcome it ironically is to talk about it. Learn the language of love that your partner resonates with; learn nonviolent communication, master the art of nonverbal communication. If boundaries are a challenge in the relationship, set boundaries firmly, and set them fairly. Be honest and open with each other about things like your partner not going through your phone, or limiting how much time they’re bingeing on social media. Yet, on the flip-side, be ready (and open) to hearing your partner’s concerns if they need reassurance…and be open to understanding where each of you are coming from. Here’s where communication comes into play.
Step Outside Your Comfort Zones
Our comfort zone is where “happiness” is, or more commonly where we’re content. What it can really mean is being stuck in the rut. Every couple has their ‘rut’ that they get into — workdays it may be about takeout or tough schedules. Weekends may be about balancing between friends and bingeing Netflix. Stepping outside of our comfort zones means being open and flexible in trying new things in the relationship that foster togetherness and closeness, and that may impede on the comfort of the rut. Stepping outside of the “same old, same old” will positively challenge each partner to take risks, to have those tough conversations, and to build reciprocity and strengthen your connection.
Find Your Flow
Our “flow” is about being totally engaged in a task where we lose track of time and that positively pushes us and challenges us. This can work individually for each person in the couple as each partner needs their own ‘me’ time. They can then talk about their flow task with each other afterward and build communication and reciprocity. Or, flow can be something that both partners engage in together such as enrolling in a shared interest class or taking a long drive while asking each other bucket list questions. Not only does this build intimacy and togetherness, it also helps partners get to know each other on a deeper level.
When Relationships Aren’t About Growth It’s important to consider when our relationships may feel ‘good’, but may not have our best interests at heart. The keyword here is complacency.
Complacency with our partner is where we stagnate; where our professional, academic and personal goals are exchanged for the momentary feel-good “happy”. This is dangerous because things like positive challenges, healthy communication, and pushing each other to make cognizant and healthy choices in overcoming bad habits or childhood conditioning are avoided and ignored. On the far end of the spectrum, complacency can be seen as regression where we’re going back to where we started instead of moving forwards towards our potential. Complacency can sneak up on us where we think we’ve reached that groove in our relationship where we’re ‘comfortable’. Yet, complacency is actually much more potentially damaging because it masquerades as familiar or easy and actually creates avoidance and escapism regarding relationship issues, bad habits, and early conditioning. Complacency is our arch-enemy in life and in our relationships because it’s in opposition to positive challenge, emotional growth, and facing our fears — it’s like that old sweatshirt you throw on that is faded, stained, outdated, and ugly, but it’s comfortable…so you keep wearing it.
You See Eye to Eye on Everything
There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. This includes seeing eye to eye on everything, where you’re affirming the exact same views on everything from abortion to your favorite bands. The thing is, no one is going to see exactly the same way on some of the easier topics, let alone the touchier ones. If you do, that’s a red flag. The reason this is toxic is that partners aren’t willing or able to move past the complacency zone to really get to know and respect each other’s differences of opinion. One of the most exciting things about a relationship is when we have differing viewpoints because this can stimulate amazing conversation and discussion and help us recognize and appreciate our partner’s values.
Imbalance of Power
This can be seen subtly such as one partner who’s only concerned about their needs, or their agenda such as, tending to their desires, etc. Or, it can be more severe such as one partner paying for everything while the other partner gets a free ride, or one partner dismissing or becoming indifferent to the others’ feelings. When there’s an imbalance of power that goes unchecked, it becomes more than complacency in a relationship, it tips the scales as toxic.
Fostering a healthy relationship that promotes growth and helps each partner become the best versions of themselves is as simple as taking the time and energy in making it happen.