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Relationships as Growth Forums  

When we think of relationships and what they provide for us, a number of words come to mind.  People often speak of love, validation, security, and happiness when they talk about what they get or want to get from their relationships.  Most people don’t talk about their relationships as a forum for personal growth.  I think perhaps they should.

Why shouldn’t our relationships challenge us and push us to become better people, develop skills we don’t have and improve the ones we do?  This idea flies in the face of much of what we think about relationships, but often happens during relationships naturally.

People are often attracted to each other because of characteristics they lack but see and enjoy in their partners.  Think of the quiet person who is attracted to the gregarious life of the party.  In the reverse the gregarious person often finds a sense of strength and peace in the quiet person.  What often happens in such pairings though, is that these differences grow into sources of irritation or problems over time.  For couples to succeed in keeping their connection strong during such problems, they have to grow.  The quiet person needs to develop their ability to assert themselves, or to at least get comfortable with it.  The gregarious one needs to get comfortable just sitting with themselves, or their partner, in silence.  When this has been successfully negotiated, both people have expanded their capabilities.  They have grown.

Just developing a successful relationship requires growth for most people. In order to open up to real intimacy and experience the vulnerability that comes along with it, most people have to learn better how to manage their own feelings and let down the walls of protection they have created over their lifetime.  It can be a frightening undertaking, but is well worth it. 

We don’t tend to think of relationships this way.  We don’t think of the growth we need to have in order to really be satisfied with relationships and we don’t think of the struggles that come in relationships as opportunities for such growth.  I think we should.  I think we should demand our relationship partners challenge us and push us to develop ourselves as fully as possible. 

This means we should get away from the idea of trying to keep the peace at all costs and avoid dealing with difficult issues that lead to conflict.  Those issues are opportunities for growth.  Perhaps the first area of growth is becoming secure enough in ourselves as individuals that we can let go of our striving for validation and security long enough to have a real, challenging interchange with our partners.

Let me know what you think of this idea.  It may seem a little scary, but I think incorporating the idea that our relationships are and should be forums for growth will make them that much richer.  Send your thoughts to