Columbia University School of Social Work, Dr. Elijah Nealy recently spoke about the qualities that make a relationship successful. According to Dr. Nealy, in order for a relationship to be successful it must be a growth fostering relationship.
A Growth Fostering Relationship is a relationship that is mutually empathetic and mutually empowering.
To put that in more relatable terms: Just because two people “love” one another does not mean that they maintain the key components of a healthy, successful and stable relationship. For this reason, many relationships tend to dissolve over time when the definition of love is created based upon unrealistic or unhealthy behaviors and expectations. Love as a word in itself is a difficult term to acknowledge in any situation as it has many different meanings depending on who and what it is associated to.
It is very difficult for individuals in newly established relationships to determine whether or not the feelings in the relationship are reciprocal, and unfortunately there is no way to be sure without basic communication. I often tell people who come to me regarding this topic, when the feelings within the relationship are reciprocal, you don’t have to worry or think about it, you’ll just be confident knowing that it is.
However, communicating our feelings tends to be a very difficult task to accomplish, as it requires vulnerability and confidence which many people struggle to attain. Aside from communicating your feelings, let’s go back to the concept of a growth fostering relationship, if you can identify with some of the key aspects of growth-fostering relationships, you may be in a good relationship with potential to grow.
Considering we’re not ALL psychiatrists or relationship experts, there are some easy ways to assess whether or not a relationship has potential to grow into something substantial.
Are you in a growth fostering relationship?
Ask yourself the following questions and be very honest with yourself!
Does your partner challenge you to be a better person? Challenges are inevitable, and they can make or break a relationship, but it’s not about whether or not you have challenges, it’s mostly about how you overcome your challenges together. It is also important that you challenge your partners weaknesses, and vise versa in order to foster growth emotionally and physically.
Does your partner enlighten you and teach you things that you may not have known prior to your relationship? It is important that your relationship not only challenges you, but teaches you new things about yourself, as well as the world around you. Education is a fundamental aspect of personal growth, in order for your relationship to be growth fostering, you ought to be able to grow as individuals who can cohesively work together. Without the ability to grow together, partners tend to grow apart.
Can you trust your partner? – There are two ways to look at this:
1. I will trust you until you give me reason not to.
2. I don’t trust anyone but over time I may start to trust you.
Out of these options, although many people live by #2, it becomes very emotionally exhausting, and tends to be destructive in relationships. While #1 is undoubtedly more difficult to practice, because it requires confidence and the comfort in being vulnerable, is allows for better growth in your relationship as it begins with a more stable foundation.
Are their actions and words stable and consistent with what tell you? Often times we are so focused on wanting a relationship out of fear of being lonely that we mentally make relationships into what they’re not. Your partner may know all the right things to say, yet their actions are inconsistent with their words. Let’s go back to middle school for one second: actions speak louder than words. If your partner’s actions are not consistent, make sure to address it with them. Remember, you’re entitled to be treated the way you want to be treated, and if they don’t treat you this way, you’re most definitely NOT in a growth-fostering relationship.
Do you and your partner share at least one interest? They say that opposites attract, and that may be true, but in order to be growth fostering, couples must have at least one interest in common. Whether it’s being pet lovers, dancing, hiking, painting, going to the gym, etc, it is important to have a shared interest. It is important because it gives you and your partner something to do together that you’re both passionate about. Without a shared interest, it’s easy for each or both partners to feel like their missing out on activities that previously brought them joy because they cannot do them together.
Does your partner support your career? Aside from your love for one another, your families, and your friends, your career should be one of the most important aspects of your life. Our careers bring us financial stability, and while money is not everything, finances are an important aspect of a romantic relationship. While some people choose careers just for the sake of making money, there are plenty of individuals who choose careers working in areas their passionate about. It’s important that your partner respects and appreciates your passion for your field, and supports your career. If your partner does not support your choice of work, it has a strong possibility of negatively affecting your relationship; especially because it plays a large part in our lives. Think about this: I’m going to be a sex therapist, do you think it would work if I were dating someone who didn’t respect my career or thought negatively about it?
Do you power with your partner rather than power over them? Don’t “power over” your partner as this only leads to disconnections; instead power with to achieve success and understanding together. You do not need to raise your voice in order to be heard. You do not need to micromanage nor control your partner in order to support them or see eye to eye. In fact, when we begin to treat our relationships like business relationships, rather than love relationships we tend to forget the core reasons behind why we’re in the relationship to begin with. Business relationships are based on money, and love is built on just that, don’t mix the two. If you’re capable of powering with your partner to achieve success and happiness separately as individuals, you’ll certainly have enough power to achieve happiness together.
If you can answer YES to each of these questions, you’re most certainly in a growth fostering relationship and you may very well have a substantial foundation on which you can continue growing. If you answered NO to one of these questions, maybe address this with your partners to see if you can work together to see eye to eye.
Until next time, stay Honestly Naked with yourself and others!