Wednesday, 30 October 2019

10 self-growth lessons I have learned from my long-term relationship

Laura is looking at her partner Ben

I can easily say that my relationship has taught me lessons that I would not have otherwise learned by myself. Relationships provide us with wonderful learning experiences and contribute to personal development. They provide us with tools that we can employ to explore different ideas and new versions of ourselves. 

When I was a teenager, I did not think that happy relationships were real. In fact, I was surrounded by damaged couples, arguments and breakup. I suppose that when it came to love, I was like a grumpy skeptic. I thought that loving relationships are meant to be in picture books or stuck somewhere in your fantasies.

When you are young, no one tells you that love is something to work towards, it is an active reciprocal process between two individuals. This active process is one of the key relationship factors that contribute to your self-growth. Fulfilling relationships are also a matter of patience, exploration and finding the right person for you. You can't just run to the first person that you see, expecting eternal romance. 

All the waffle aside, I am currently in my second relationship, 2 years and 8 months, we are engaged, happy and going strong. In this post, I will reflect on 10 self-growth lessons that I have learned from my relationship. I will also touch upon the fundamentals of relationship satisfaction.

(All the lovely photography in this post was taken by Jodie Mitchell

1. Life is too short to take it seriously 

My partner, Ben, always reminds me that there is no point in taking life too seriously. This helped me to put my life in perspective. I still get frustrated by situations that I cannot control, lack of control causes me great stress.

I am sure that I'm not the only one, stressing over the little things. Being in my relationship has taught me that it is important to remember that we are not going to live for eternity. This means that we should not waste our precious time, being in a negative state.

2. Be grateful for what you have 

When I'm down, I can get blinded by negative bias. This tunnel vision is caused by negative thoughts, it is easy to get stuck in the same routine and forget about the good things that you may have in life.

My relationship has taught me that it is important to always feel grateful for what you have. The power of a grateful mindset can help you to attain a more positive outlook. So, the next time when you are upset, hold your loved ones close and remember to appreciate what you have.

3. Being unconditionally selfless is rewarding  

People are naturally born to be selfish, focused on achieving their goals and making themselves feel good. Caring about others is something that we learn over time. Relationship satisfaction rests on our ability to be unconditionally selfless. This is based on realizing that life does not revolve around you, it is about being considerate about the person that you love, but not because you have to, but because you want to.  

I have learned that relationships cannot function without actively equal effort from both partners. This reminds me of this theory that I have learned in psychology. The equity theory describes how relationship satisfaction is all about inputs and outputs. In simple terms, it suggests that the distribution of resources between partners should be equal. Equity theory is built on fairness principles. 

In my personal opinion, being unconditionally selfless has taught me to respond more effectively to my partner. Selfishness is just an obstacle obstructing the way to fairness. Content relationships are made up of mutually selfless people, who give as much as they take.

4. It's never too late to follow your dreams 

When I met up with Ben, we were both in the same undergraduate psychology course. His life circumstances were a bit different from mine. Ben was a mature student, he had to jump through many hoops to get to university. He was not made for the education system. 

As an individual, he enjoys questioning ideas and struggles to follow rules like a sheep, just because someone tells him to. In fact, when Ben was younger, his teachers did not have much hope about his future prospects. Ben's school experience was filled with bullying from both his peers and teachers. He was also unable to escape at home, as his family life was also chaotic.

Despite not having many academic qualifications, Ben eventually decided to do an Access course to psychology and ambitiously worked towards his goal of getting a degree. My partners' life journey has taught me that it's never too late to follow your dreams. You can do whatever you set your mind to.

5. Stop caring about what other people think 

I don't know about you, but I happen to constantly obsess about what other people think about me. Before my current relationship, my behaviour and decisions were controlled by other people's opinions. I was scared of being judged. When I made decisions, I was haunted by questions and what ifs: 

"What if they will see me as a bad person?"

"What if people will think that this is a bad move to make?

"'What if this will make people hate me?"  

I did not live for myself, I lived for other people. I lived to please others, impress them with my achievements. We always worry too much about what other people think, but what's the point? My relationship has contributed to my personal development by teaching me that other people's opinions should not dictate the way you live. I have learned to stay true to myself and my values.

Laura and her partner Ben, sitting on hay

6. Always remember that you are in control 

I think out of all the lessons that I have learned from my relationship, this one has made the greatest contribution to my personal growth. Whenever I'm in low spirits, my partner always reminds me that I am always in control.

If I don't want to feel horrible, I can choose not to. I am an active agent of my own reality. This means I can control how I interpret the world and choose happiness instead of being miserable. Remember that you are in control, as it can help you to minimize victim mentality thinking. 

I always reflect on my personal control whenever I am experiencing my breakdowns, it helps me to recover from misery. I have touched upon the importance of personal control in my previous posts, which you can check out below:  

7. Your past does not define you 

Before I got into my current relationship, I used to define my personal identity through my past experiences. As a result, I was worried that my negative past experiences limit my worth. It was as if the past was haunting my every move. 

When I observed other people's lives, I felt jealous of their picture-perfect lives. I was filled with frustration because I knew that I could not change my upbringing and family dynamics. I have learned that my past does not define me. We can aim to be better than our past experiences. It's all about creating a more positive future for yourself.

8. Try not to set up high expectations for others

I would not consider myself a people's person. I find it extremely hard to trust others because they can easily disappoint me. When I care about people, I set high expectations for them, especially when I can sense that someone has potential.

Most individuals are quite predictable, they work in their own ways and dislike change, even if that change is positive for them. This means that you should never expect anything. I have learned that not having high expectations for people helps to avoid unnecessary disappointment. 

9. Relationships cannot function without a healthy dose of humor 

My relationship has taught me the importance of humor in my life. Humor could be considered as a healthy coping response.

Humor protects against stress, contributing to a healthier well-being. It is clear that solid relationship foundation cannot be built without a healthy dose of humor. The best relationships are those where people can make fun of each other, where day-to-day chores are sprinkled with laughter.

10. Always live your own truth  

We live in a society where social norms place great expectations on our behaviour. An insightful lesson that I have learned from my relationship is that we can choose to follow these systems or stick to our individuality by living our own truth. When we stay true to ourselves, people may dislike our thinking, especially if it does not fit the expected norm. 

I used to be afraid of criticism, I lived as someone else just to be liked by others. When I was younger, I followed trends mindlessly. I listened to the same music as other people, wore similar clothes. I did not question anything and lived my life like a mindless robot. 

Ben has taught me that you should never live for other people. His perspective on life has also taught me that a positive change in society can't ever happen without people who do things differently. I feel like when I am myself, that's when I truly develop as an individual. 

These are all the self-growth lessons that I have learned from my relationship. I can easily say that my relationship is probably one of the best things that have ever happened to me. I feel like I have turned into a better person, thanks to my partner. 

I have described the lessons that I have learned from a relationship point of view, but please note that all the things that I have mentioned, can also be employed in your life even if you are single. 

If you are in a relationship - have you got any lessons that you have learned from your relationship? How has your relationship contributed to your personal development? Let me know in the comments! 

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pinterest graphic that says 10 self-growth lessons I have learned from my relationship


  1. It is amazing that what we see as children defines much of how we perceive things later, and it it hard to change those perceptions! Seeing a happy couple brings you closer to believing couples are happy. Seeing unhappy couples might manifest that in your life instead.

    Love the lessons you have shared and the happiness you have manifested!

    1. What a lovely comment. I love your ideas on manifestation. Thank you so much for reading.

  2. These lessons are spot on - and great reminders when taking things to serious! Humor is key!

  3. Congratulations! Your partner seems to be great for you! I think the best relationships are those with a supportive partner who helps you to see life in a better light. And I love that you mentioned being unconditional selfless. It's so important! So often, it's expectations that break a decent relationship.
    Thanks for sharing your experience! These are great lessons.

    1. No worries. I don't think relationships would ever work without unconditional support. Thank you so much for reading my blog!

  4. I enjoyed reading this post, as it is something that is on my mind as well. I am actually planning to write something similar about me and my husband. I think that it is so powerful what we can learn from one another, whether those are romantic relationships or other relationships.

  5. I am very guilty of number 5, it’s definitely something I need to work on. Great post x

  6. You're absolutely right! I'll be with my boyfriend 3 years in December and it's the first time I've been with someone who puts in the same amount of effort as me. Unsurprisingly, it's my first healthy relationship.

    Ash |

  7. These are all great points. I've learned more about myself and others since I've been married. Relationships truly are great educators.

  8. You have shared some things here, which I didn't know about. I guess, it would be good, if more people read it, because, the information is really useful.