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.Â 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.Â — 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.