You, your partner, and the relationship are capable of growth and change. – Dr Carol Dweck.
Regardless of the awareness that solitude cannot be avoided in the journey of life, humans are fundamentally and innately social beings, Thus, relationship has always been one of the core topics in almost every human’s life. Some people have it great, and others might not.
As part of the Middle America Project, 75 working-class young adults were interviewed regarding the Love and Marriage section. Many of the young adults shared their ideas that love should arise effortlessly, just like a light bulb lighting up. And their relationship should remain as such without additional effort, they thought.
Does this sound surprising to you? From my opinion, I agree that some clients might come with such ideas. As my professional experience unfolds, I find the more accurate reflection is that most people are also willing to do the work to improve their relationship in intimate life. However, the mindsets they have in perceiving change in relationship will most likely determine whether they could gain resiliency and success in sustaining a loving and meaningful relationship.
In her book of Mindset, Stanford psychologist Dr Carol Dweck wrote “The New Psychology of Success, suggested that growth mindset is key element in promoting resilient and strong relationship”. People with a fixed mindset did not see the ability to change or grow with investment of efforts and openness. That fixated mindset tends to trap one to attach with the thought that those things requiring extra effort to work on are simply not meant to be. Further, this group is unable to consider that people’s needs and thoughts might change as time goes on. Instead, they reject the possibility of change, which in turns translates to them maintaining low desire to put in extra effort to build new patterns that might be more beneficial in sustaining a healthy relationship.
However, people with growth mindsets value the opportunity to understand through clarification, reflection and re-calibrating the goals and actions required to cultivate the relationship and life that he/she would love to experience. Dweck writes “In the growth mindset there may still be that exciting initial combustion, but people in this mindset don’t expect magic. They believe that a good, lasting relationship comes from effort and from working through inevitable differences.” Aligned with the growth mindset, we know that humans are interesting kinds of beings that are gifted with ability to create. Thus, it is possible for us to create s meaningful relationship when we decide to equip ourselves with a growth mindset.
Some ways to promote growth mindset in relationship:
- Be open to change and the belief that successful relationships require examination and adjustment from time to time.
- Be open to listening and understanding the different needs in relationship, even it might make you feel uncomfortable.
- Understand that acknowledging, clarifying, and understanding our partner’s thoughts or needs does not mean you have to agree or sacrifice your own thoughts and needs.
- You can create a loving relationship through consistent efforts of reflection and regular discussion between partners.
- Everyone is different. Female or male, straight or gay, everyone has different life experiences. In any relationship, although we cannot always fulfill them, both parties needs and thoughts are valid.
- Honour and appreciate each other daily or weekly, in simple and heart-warming ways that can express your love and care.
- Conflict while uncomfortable, is an opportunity for both parties to examine the challenges in relationship. Do not take things too personally but attempt to maintain an objective perspective at the issue being discussed. Only then can the common ground emerge.
- Wait for both parties to calm down to allow for meaningful discussion. Do not be afraid to pause a conversation and come back to it later. When tensions and emotions are high, we tend to say things we don’t mean or hurt others if we lash out.
- Be open to accepting criticism to learn. Let it be a reference point (rather than an order or demand) for change.
Growth comes with pain and discomfort, no matter whether we like it or not. If you do not wish for growth, you might achieve nothing further than that in life. It is important to remind ourselves that it is never too late to cultivate a growth mindset in our relationships. To create those wonderful moments with the important people in our lives, we can choose to adopt growth mindset. On this note, I wish to emphasize the need to also seek the chance to reflect and scrutinize our own self-development to ensure the relational work can be paved more efficiently. When we start to change, it can spread like a ripple effect, affecting not only one-self but also the people around us.
May we all be able to tell a story of love that is filled with different colour spectrums rising from ongoing discussions and reflections in relationship, with a strong faith in openness, growth, willingness, love, and care. If this sounds new to you, you may not need to do it alone. You can always choose to talk with someone who you can trust or psychologist to start the conversation of developing a growth mindset to nurture meaningful relationships even in times of struggle.
My blessings are always with you.