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Growing into Your Relationship Means Learning How to Stretch

In our last post, we talked about how most couples experience incompatibility eventually. We also detailed the universal emergence of the Power Struggle, plus its foundation: 

“Why can’t you be more like me?”

If you accept your partner for who they are, that’s part of the solution. 

But let’s explore the other side. You do — at least somewhat — need to become more like them.

You might be asking, “Really? You mean there was actually something to the moral of Grease?!”

Of course, the lesson is not to become each other — that’s both impossible and unwise — but for both of you to stretch in each other’s direction. 

Why? Because, in the long-run, the most successful couples exhibit an open mind to learning, new experiences, and growth.

Doing this is not to be taken lightly, though. Change is hard. Asking anyone to change even a basic behavior can take many requests and patient repetition. And it becomes harder as we age. 

So, how can you and your partner learn from each other in a loving way?

Misses and Wishes

In this exercise, you’ll revisit what works about your relationship, and you’ll brainstorm what could improve. It will help build intimacy, trust, and warmth between you and your partner.

Step 1: Appreciate

Get two pens/pencils and two sheets of paper. Separately, make a list of what you loved about your relationship in the Romantic phase — that fun, swept-away period before the power struggle. These would be aspects that you feel are missing now, during the Power Struggle.

Step 2: Dream

Now, take some time to imagine what you’d like to feel in your relationship. Actually, go deeper than “like” — something you’ve been longing to feel. You’re jumping from what you did appreciate to what you would appreciate.

Step 3: Share

Now you and your partner get to discuss the misses and wishes that you wrote down. These can be fruitful and fun conversation starters in a couple of ways. 

First, you might find it enjoyable to reminisce on the romantic phase of your relationship. You may actually rekindle some of those feelings just by talking about them. If you get the urge to hug your partner or cuddle with them, do that!

After this bolster, you and your partner might move to the second list with extra inspiration. Let this excitement be your fuel.

Step 4: Create

Take this time to create specific “stretch actions.” This will help you reach toward your goals in measurable ways — so you can feel the success when it happens!

For example, one partner might be skilled at logic but out of touch with their feelings. They might resolve to sit with their emotions for 15 minutes a day just to observe them happening — no analyzing, no judgments. 

When you can agree on a few pillars of growth, write them in a way that feels special (“yes” to pretty stationary, “no” to used Post-It Notes), and display them somewhere prominent, to be referenced on a daily basis.

As you both work to stretch out of your comfort zones, remember to give ample encouragement to each other. After all, you’re both committed to learning something new for your partner. That’s already a sign of great love!


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Copyright @2020 Dana Cole, LMFT