Don’t box each other in.
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HOW YOU CAN PUT IT INTO PRACTICE
In relationships (and in life!), it’s very common to fall into habituated roles: the more social one, the quieter one, the more spontaneous one, the more adventuresome one, the more timid one, the one with the higher libido, the more successful one, the more frugal one, the risk-taker, the more safety-minded one, the more easy going one, the more creative one, the kinder one, the more independent one, and on and on and on.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it’s natural. However, it’s something to be very mindful of in order to prevent you from getting stuck in roles that limit you or from boxing each other in.
For example, perhaps your mate loves taking risks and going on spontaneous getaways. You love travelling with him but usually prefer to plan things out ahead of time. He sees you as cautious and timid and, as a result, you start to see yourself as that and unconsciously cultivate those qualities within you. Now, imagine you’re married to someone who loves staying home, saving for retirement, and backup plans. To him, you are the free spirit, the adventurer. Likewise, you start to see yourself as an adventurer, and, consequently, become even more of one.
Or maybe your beloved is really, really organized, and takes the lead on things involving your family. In turn, you fall into thinking you aren’t so organized. With a different partner who has an easier time embracing chaos, you may be seen as an organizing superstar.
How we are seen by our mate can have a dramatic effect on how we see ourselves, and the roles we grow into. However, the identities we take on aren’t necessarily our essence but can instead simply be a result of:
- Becoming who we think our partner wants/needs us to be
- Filling certain roles just to balance out our partner
- Becoming the person our partner sees us as
So, how can you support your partner in becoming their most complete self?
(1) In general, be careful not to box your beloved in. Even if they used to be a certain way, allow them to change. Let them grow and cultivate diverse aspects of themselves!
(2) Specifically, ask your beloved how they want to be seen. This is a question we love asking couples during counseling sessions, and it’s amazing how often people long to be seen differently than how their partner currently sees them.
(3) When your beloved wants to grow some aspect of themselves, validate and encourage them. Affirm their desire to cultivate this within themselves. And then begin to see them through this lens to help them strengthen this aspect of themselves.
(4) Avoid saying “you’re so…” when it would be followed by some role or identity that your partner doesn’t want to be seen for. Instead, replace these kinds of expressions with words that reflect character traits they want to embrace more fully!
Enjoy supporting each other expand and grow into your fullest, truest selves! We’d love to hear what you discover about each other!