love and learning

Everyone gives a lot of lip service to the idea that a loving relationship should be filled with learning and growing together. It’s easy to find Etsy prints, books, and postcards with sayings related to this idea, yet I never seemed to really get the message.

You see, when Mr. Lively and I started our relationship, I immediately wanted to “design a relationship with intention” (as I do with every area of my life). I thought that we should talk a lot about our future plans, dreams, and intentions. That we should work to discover our strengths and weaknesses, and resolve any issues.

I imagined that once we figured out what kind of life we wanted and what our intentions were, we would automatically be an (almost) perfect couple. That by designing a relationship with intention, that we’d be in a smooth sailing partnership.

And to some extent it’s true, I deeply love, respect, and appreciate him. Our life, though not perfect, is pretty darn incredible. He is kind, thoughtful, funny (okay, downright witty), smart, and talkative. We have tons of fun together eating amazing food around Chicago, biking, running, and reading aloud to each other at night.

But there still were issues and conflicts in the relationship nonetheless.

In the past, each time we found ourselves faced with an issue, we would talk it out, work through it, and find a way to get back to the smooth sailing. That’s what I thought it meant to “learn and grow together.” Whenever there is an issue, you figure it out together and get past it as a stronger team.

Recently, however, I’m learning that there is more to it than that.

In the past few weeks we have gradually evolved from “problem solvers,” intent on clearing away the barriers in our life to get back to Great, to honestly pursuing growth as a goal in and of itself. Before, I used to grow enough to keep the relationship positive. Now, I’m looking to actively continue to improve whether there is trouble or peace between us.

And I don’t think that I was being lazy before, I just don’t think I knew any better.

This shift started with reading The Pursuit of Perfect together.  As we’ve been reading the book aloud, we’ve taken time to stop, discuss, and relate the concepts to areas of our personal lives and work situations. We’ve begun to share and help each other learn how to approach situations and life in general, differently.  — And there isn’t a “problem” to be fixed this time. We are simply reflecting and learning so that we can be better people towards one another and out in the world.

In the process of being study partners in self-improvement, I have sensed a shift in how I see relationships. I now know that it’s possible to be in a relationship that can lead to higher growth as an individual. That I don’t need to just grow in the couple to be a better girlfriend, but I can use it to become a better woman. And sharing in a goal that is larger than “us” brings us closer together on a totally different level.

A great relationship doesn’t have to be an unending string of positive feelings and fun. And it also doesn’t have to be one that faces conflict as a way to keep the peace. It can be one that includes the positives, the conflicts, and the unending shared pursuit of individual and shared growth.


This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Claudia

    what a great post, Jess. helping each other grow as individuals only makes your life together stronger. you may not see eye to eye on everything, but communicating well and encouraging each other is so important.

  2. Kelley

    I think you’re quite lucky to have a guy like Mr. Lively. It seems that a lot of guys think that if there’s nothing wrong with a relationship, then why do they need to work on it? What’s to work on? Sort of a, “if it’s not broke, don’t don’t fix it” kind of attitude.
    My husband struggled with this after we got married. He would say, “what do you want to go on a date for? We’re together all the time!” Now he is coming to realize that pursuing quality time and relational growth is worthwhile, even if our relationship is already on good terms. 🙂

    As always, thanks for the thought-provoking posts!

  3. Allison

    I just found your blog a few days ago and wow, I really needed to read this post. I think I’ll be sharing it with my guy later tonight…thank you!

  4. You guys are the sweetest couple!

    In a similar vein, I think Ryan and I try really hard to support each other as individuals, particularly in our careers (because that is so much of our time!). I’ve written how Ryan supports me, but I also try to keep tabs on how he’s feeling about his job, where he sees himself going, what is interesting to him now, etc. I like that I see that in you and Mr. Lively as well.

    I love this part: “I now know that it’s possible to be in a relationship that can lead to higher growth as an individual.” Yes, but only with the right person!

  5. Anait

    This is such a great post, and something that I think everyone in a relationship should read. Because relationships ARE hard work…and it is so easy to get lost in the details and not see the bigger picture, the idea of growth as a goal itself rather than just the immediate resolution of any problems. I’m learning that more and more in my own relationship! Thanks for this insightful post and reminder 🙂

    So happy I stumbled upon your blog!

  6. Mrs C

    This is just fabulous Jess! I love writing/reading on all things relationships. My husband and I went to a couples Christian counselor prior to getting engage to do a lot of what you described and it was fabulous. I think there is always room to grow a relationship and I am looking so forward to picking up this book!!! Lovely post as always!

  7. Nikell

    This was a really great post. It’s got me to thinking about some things in my marriage. Thanks for sharing. ^_^

  8. Thank you so much for this eye-opening post. I found it so beautifully written and heart felt… and so true to where I am in my life now. It’s so true that we should always be looking to learn and grow together, whether through our problems, or not. We shouldn’t settle on just okay.

    I Can Be Many Things

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