Healthy Relationships Require Both People to Work on Themselves

grow together in your relationships by both pursuing growthIn personal and spiritual growth circles, it’s a pretty common phenomenon for couples to split up. The reason is simple: only one partner is doing the internal work that leads to transformation, and the other is not. As a result, both partners grow apart and go their separate ways.

But this doesn’t happen if both partners grow personally and spiritually. In fact, when they both travel a transformational path, the relationship grows stronger and thrives.

Take my marriage as an example. When I first met my husband, we were both on the same growth path. For many years, we explored a variety of personal and spiritual growth programs, read books, attended seminars, and became closer in the process. Literally, we grew together.

Growing Apart

Then, my husband lost interest in personal and spiritual growth. But I still wanted to grow, so I continued on that path.

But our values and beliefs were now very different. Plus, I wanted to continue attending seminars and reading books together, and my husband had no desire to join me. This left me feeling quite lonely…and angry.

Eventually, I put my personal and spiritual growth on the back burner “to get along.” It simply felt easier to be with him if I wasn’t so conscious all the time of the difference in our beliefs and interests. But this decision left me filled with resentment toward him. I blamed him for pretty much the entire situation. Plus, I felt a tremendous amount of grief over the distance between us, which I dealt with by creating a thick wall to protect my heart.

As you might imagine, the years spent ignoring my personal and spiritual growth left me miserable—with myself and the marriage. And they didn’t bring us any closer either.

Back on the Path

As the years passed, the rift between my husband and me became wider. I was convinced we were too far apart to ever find our way back together.

In fact, I was at the point of asking for a divorce, but I decided to throw myself back into personal and spiritual growth. I did so partly because of my continued passion for the transformational path. However, I also knew enough to realize that some of the issues in the marriage were mine. Therefore, I had to take responsibility for my part rather than blame my husband.

I was well aware that any blocks I accrued during the marriage would follow me to my next relationship if I didn’t resolve them. Only by getting back on the personal and spiritual growth path could I release my negative emotions, lower my heart wall, and feel confident I had done my best to make the marriage work.

I had to take full responsibility for my part in the failing marriage and do my part to repair the relationship.

Growing Together

As I did this work, I had some important epiphanies about myself and how I was damaging the relationship and hurting myself in the process. While I had gotten in the habit of not sharing these types of insights with my husband, I decided it was time to speak up (something I had done early in our marriage.) So, I shared them with my husband.

At first, he just thanked me for sharing. But after a month or two, he began to see the impact my personal and spiritual growth work had on me—and on our relationship. And eventually, he admitted his lack of growth was impacting the relationship.

The more often I told him about my aha moments and how I needed to change to improve the marriage, the more open he became to how changing himself would get the same result.

Recommitting to the Relationship

As we both made tiny shifts in thought, attitude, and behavior, the marriage also shifted. Over time, we were able to recommit to our relationship. We both agreed to make specific changes and continue working on ourselves.

Although the relationship still has much room for improvement, we are closer and happier now than we’ve been in at least 15 years.

5 Ways to Invite Your Partner Onto the Transformational Path

So, if your relationship is suffering because of your personal and spiritual growth efforts, please know that you are not alone. However, you don’t necessarily have to end the relationship. Before you make the decision, here are five things to try.

1. Ask your partner to grow with you.

Even if your partner has turned down your invitations to grow together, ask again. This time, explain why it’s important to you for your partner to grow with you.

And appeal to your partner’s desires to make the relationship work. Offer a great argument about growing together as you pursue personal and spiritual growth.

You also can try to make your invitation more appealing by offering to go to their favorite restaurant after attending a lecture together. Or say you simply don’t want to go alone, and they can bring along an iPad for entertainment. Describe this as a date where you each get to do something you enjoy.

My husband offered to attend whatever event I wanted to go to with him, even if he had no interest. He said, “I’ll go just to be with you.” While that’s not as satisfying as him wanting to attend the event, at this point, I’ll take it. And I never know what might sink into his head inadvertently or how hearing something might spark a conversation that leads to growth for him and improvement in our relationship.

2. Explain what you’re doing to grow and how it’s impacting the relationship positively.

Your partner is more likely to get on board the growth train if you help them better understand how growth positively impacts the relationship. Explain that, if you both want the relationship to work, it makes sense to be on the transformational journey together.

Also, invite your partner to try different things. We all get very stuck in our ways, but sometimes all it takes is a gentle and loving nudge.

Always invite them; don’t demand or offer ultimatums.

3. Be forthcoming about how the choices your partner is making impact the relationship.

It’s super important to do this in a way that doesn’t place blame or point out your partner’s shortcomings. Instead, only talk about how their behavior or words impact you and the relationship.

How you feel is a choice! However, that doesn’t mean that talking about how you are working on not feeling that way when X, Y, or Z happens is off-limits. It’s okay, but always take responsibility for your reactions. For instance, you can say, “When you do X, I feel…” Or “When you do Y, it reminds of that time when…and then I feel…and I do…”

Basically, you share how your partner’s inadvertent behavior or language triggers you. Be sure to stress that the trigger is your issue. And assure them, “I’m working on not getting so triggered, but it would be helpful if you could help me out. Just being aware that the behavior triggers me would be helpful. Then I won’t be triggered as often, and we will get along better.”

4. Remember that your attitude and stories related to your partner create a rift.

It takes two people to make a relationship work. That’s why you must take responsibility for yourself and your part in whatever is going wrong. (Doing so is an essential lesson on a transformational journey.)

It’s not just about them. It’s also about you.

Specifically, your attitudes and stories about your partner’s speech or behavior create problems in the relationship. This is because you give what they do and say a tremendous amount of meaning. And you tell stories about that meaning to yourself and probably to anyone who will listen.

So, choose a different meaning. For instance, stop judging your partner as thoughtless. Instead, consider that the actions you believe mean they are thoughtless could mean that they forgot to take their ADHD medication, are stressed or distracted by work, or don’t know you would like them to be more thoughtful. Of course, it’s even possible they think they are thoughtful…

And create a new story based on the new meaning you choose for their behavior. A different story can make a considerable amount of difference.

5. Be a great role model.

Continue on your personal and spiritual growth path, and simply be a role model of your own transformation. Demonstrate how it is helping you—and the relationship thrive. When your partner sees you changing in positive ways, they may feel more open to trying to change.

Role models are enormously persuasive. Your new success, happiness, ability to communicate, health, and even love and understand for your partner can go a long way toward embracing their own personal and spiritual growth path.

Don’t Stop Growing…No Matter What

Despite all your efforts to grow with your partner, your partner may refuse. They may simply be too comfortable to change or uninterested in doing what it takes to make the relationship work.

You will have to determine if they are more committed to their comfort level—or their three drinks per night, working 24–7, or television all weekend long—than to your relationship. And maybe that’s a question to ask: “Are you more committed to [whatever] than you are to me and our relationship?” The answer will be telling, and your partner may even be surprised by the response.

Then, you have a choice to make. If you haven’t been with your partner for very long, the decision might be easier and less painful. On the other hand, if you’ve been married for many years, it may feel harder and take more thought.

But don’t give up your personal and spiritual growth for someone else. It’s too important.

Indeed, one of the things that I realized was that I needed to love myself enough to continue growing—no matter what. Even if it meant my marriage had to end, I needed to continue on my transformational path for myself.

After all, walking a personal and spiritual growth path is the only way to achieve our potential, fulfill our purpose, and live fully.

I can’t predict the future—for your relationship or mine. However, I know that when you both walk a transformational path, you arrive at the same destination together.

Are you and your partner on a personal and spiritual growth path together? How does that impact your relationship? Tell me in a comment below, and please share this post with a friend.


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2 thoughts on “Healthy Relationships Require Both People to Work on Themselves”

  1. Thank you. Excellent advice.

    My first husband and I grew apart and it was then that I learned that while it takes two people to make a marriage, it takes only one for a divorce. Leaving after 20 years together was incredibly hard for me.

    I remarried and chose a man whose value system is closer to my own. We’re near celebrating our 17th anniversary. It hasn’t always been easy, but I am grateful that we both want to make it work.

    When he knows I want to do something that I would like him to join me on but he isn’t really interested in, he asks “Is it a relationship issue?” I consider if I would do it without him, and if he does it with me, will it be better if I “drag him along” or go without him. Generally I go without him, but don’t resent his not going, because I know he would have if I’d asked. I say yes when I believe he will ultimately be happier that he went than if he didn’t.

    1. I love your distinction between when you ask your husband to join you and when you don’t. Thanks so much for sharing that.

      And I appreciate you taking the time to comment, too! 🙂

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