Hooking up, shacking up, or having sex with someone within 20 minutes of meeting them does nothing to help you grow. These types of behaviors stifle you and set you back. Only relationships help you grow.
A healthy relationship means choosing wisely and treating kindly. I’m not saying it has to be perfect – that’s never the case. However, in a good relationship, you and your partner have each other’s interests at heart, and you each feel like you are changing for the better. You feel very secure, and it allows you to relax.
It’s amazing how much better your mind and body work when you have some level of peace and a sense of security. I can’t tell you how many times people have called my show saying that they feel they’re lacking in some area for one reason or another, and I ask them, “So, are you saying that your husband/wife is stupid? Because they seem to think you’re nice, attractive, talented, and interesting.” A big reason relationships help you grow is because your partner usually sees something objectively that has been hard for you to accept emotionally. It’s not unusual for you to start rejecting your distorted, self-critical perception of yourself when your spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend, who you admire tremendously and love, sees you more positively than you see yourself.
There was one woman who I had in therapy a while back who went through this very process. When she came to me, she was the stereotypical dumb blonde. She had overly bleached hair, huge boobs, and a dingy way of speaking. Then one day when we were talking in a session, she started to analyze something quite intelligently and articulately. I just sat there with my eyes opened wide like a kid in a candy store for the first time. I realized that behind this dumb blonde shtick was a very smart woman. After gently nudging her for a while, I got her to start attending community college. She would bring me papers she’d written for her philosophy class, and I remember reading them thinking, “Wow, I could never have written this. It’s brilliant!” She went on to graduate, and she now has an esteemed position. I am very proud of her.
For this woman, the turning point was simply me believing in her. She had come from a very disruptive and destructive family, and she had been into every drug known to man (it’s a miracle she was still alive). However, because I believed in her, she decided to believe in herself. The same goes for intimate relationships. When you are in a quality relationship and your dearly beloved believes in you, you believe in yourself.
Relationships also help you become a better person because your partner introduces you to new things. They’ve probably had a million different experiences you haven’t. Generally speaking, you get introduced to terrific things and expand your attributes and talents. You learn to do sports or hobbies you would have never thought of doing, like watching science fiction movies or going whitewater rafting.
In addition, your partner’s good habits will rub off on you. Whether it’s their ability to cope emotionally, their physical fitness level, their commitment to eating right, their knack for managing finances, or their choice of friends, you can benefit from their good habits. This happens a lot in marriages. For example, if one spouse is more hyper than the other, the hyper one will become more calm and collected, and the more sedated one will become more energized. They offer each other their positive parts and end up creating a nice mix if they are open and supportive of each other.
Another benefit of being in a relationship is that you are encouraged to be yourself and expand who you are. If you love to sing but have anxiety about performing, your partner can encourage you to take some lessons or sing at the local restaurant on Wednesday nights. If singing is how you love to express yourself, your beloved will encourage you.
That’s another reason why relationships are great: you and your partner are there to support each other. Be it emotional support (being their cheering section), physiological support (giving them a hug), or financial support (working extra hours so they can have the money to do something), it’s all about helping each other out. When you’ve had a bad day, there’s nothing like coming home to a hug (*note: no matter how bad you are feeling, make sure you give your spouse a hug when he or she comes home after they’ve had a bad day).
A final way relationships help you grow is that you are held accountable for your behavior. For example, women, in particular, like to talk negativity. We spend a lot of time expecting the men in our lives to sit and listen to us bitch and moan about what has hurt and upset us. Guys can hear it once, and then they want to fix it. They don’t want to keep hearing about the same drama with your mother or sister over and over again (guys, the same goes for repeating the “I’m angry with my boss” story every day). You are going to be held accountable by your partner because they won’t tolerate certain constant behaviors like this. It’s a good thing when your partner draws the line and says, “Enough of this!,” because it ultimately makes you a better person.
As Jack Nicholson said in the film, As Good As It Gets, “You make me want to be a better man.” That’s the whole point of relationships – they help make you a better man (or woman).