How to Develop Your Self-Identity and Experience Personal Growth in a Committed Relationship

How to Develop Your Self-Identity and Experience Personal Growth in a Committed Relationship

How to Develop Your Self-Identity and Experience Personal Growth in a Committed Relationship

Know Yourself

Know Yourself | Being in a long-term committed relationship doesn’t mean that you lose your personal identity. In fact, the best partnerships are those that encourage personal growth in their significant other and vice versa. Let’s be honest, you being you is the reason why your partner fell in love with you in the first place! 

Falling in love and creating a life together is fun, challenging, and sometimes even consuming. It’s not uncommon that you may find yourself feeling a little lost in your identity from time to time. 

When you have been romantically involved with someone for a long period of time, feelings, thoughts, beliefs, dislikes, and passions often start to mend together. These mending moments are often beautiful and encouraging to a relationship that has worked so hard to be successful. 

However, when you move forward together in your partnership, it’s also important to continue to grow in your self-identity and to truly know yourself – developing your own personality, likes, and dislikes in order to continue contributing to your relationship and its success. 

The happiest and most successful couples do these five things to strengthen their relationship. Here’s how to develop your self-identity and experience personal growth in a committed relationship.

Learn Something New

Life can feel like it’s moving at a hundred miles per hour when you’re busy balancing work, family, friends, home, pets, health, and your relationship. And when the whirlwind of everything and everyone occupies all of your time and energy – it’s hard to see much further past the present moment that you are in (or attempting to catch up to). 

This idea of furthering your education may feel unrealistic or at the very least, impractical with current life events. 

The awesome thing about education is that you don’t have to “go back to school” or even enroll in a class (unless you want to and have the time to do so). All you need is to find a topic or area of study that you are interested in furthering your education. 

Then, support yourself in this learning journey by subscribing to a podcast, purchasing a book, signing up for a newsletter, or even meeting with an expert in whatever field you’re interested in learning more about. 

Then, while you are driving to work, running your weekly errands, or running the kids between afterschool activities you can listen to a podcast, read a chapter while waiting for swim lessons to end, catch up with a weekly newsletter over coffee, or grab lunch with someone who can speak to what it is you are interested in. 

Alternatively, if you struggle to find something that you are interested in learning more about – maybe connecting with an online life coach could help shed some light on areas of interest and beneficial pathways to your personal success.

This simple (and sometimes passive) way of learning will encourage personal growth and personal understanding while you continue to balance all that life throws at you. Not only will you be developing the way you see yourself and the world, but you will also open up new conversation between you and your partner. 

Have a Hobby That’s All Yours

You and your partner may have EVERYTHING in common, and that’s okay…but I promise you, if you take the time to find something that is ALL yours – it feels super rewarding. 

I’m not saying that you have to keep this new hobby from your partner but the more you treat it as your you time the more beneficial it will be. 

For those who have been in a long-term relationship (and I mean a relationship that literally feels like for-ev-er) it can feel intimidating and even difficult to find a new hobby that’s all yours. Try a few things out, if you decide you hate it – try something else. 

The more effort you put into finding that perfect you hobby, the more you will enjoy it and look forward to it. Remember, the whole point of this experiment is to fall more in love with who you are and to continue growing as the awesome individual that you already are!

Make Your Friendships a Priority

Yes, I’m looking at you →  “Well, I have friends but I only see them once a month if our schedules line up, and the kids are away at someone else’s house for the night, and my partner is also friends with my friends’ partners.” ←  Stop overcomplicating your friendships!

Making your friendships a priority is extremely important in any relationship. You need your gal pals or dudes who have completely different and often similar walks of life to challenge you, encourage you, comfort you, and keep you on your toes. 

If Finding Friends You Can Count On feels like a challenge, then it might be a good time to reassess your friendships and begin working towards healthier, more sustainable relationships. It’s important as adults that we prioritize our friendships, here’s more on:  The Importance of Healthy Friendships.

While your partner might be your best friend, don’t forget about your besties. They need you as much as you need them in order to grow as an individual and even flourish in your partnership. A good friend can offer support, accountability, and help you know yourself (or at the very least, remind you who you are when you need it the most).

Develop Your Idea of Art and Culture

For some, the love of art, music, and culture comes naturally. However, a lot of us are a little more generic and may find it difficult to stay interested or appear so at the dinner parties of our most artistic and culturally savvy friends. The thing with art is that there is SO much of it. There are so many fantastic forms of it – painting, drawing, live-action, music, graphic design…the list goes on. Art stems from cultures, lifestyles, fantasies, and often tragedies. Knowing not necessarily the history of art but knowing how it makes you feel is important. 

There is so much that we can learn about ourselves by the music we enjoy, the pictures we take, the food we cook, and the way in how we share these experiences with our world. 

Developing a keen sense into what you enjoy and why you enjoy it will not only promote a greater understanding of the self but you will also have a deeper understanding into areas of you that your partner fell in love with. 

I think we often get swept up in keeping up with the …… (insert your play on this here) and we forget all the little and big things that bring us joy and make you, well…you! If you have ever heard a song or watched a movie that you proclaimed “I use to LOVE this song/movie!” Then you know a little of what I am talking about. 

I encourage you to keep chasing after those passions that may even feel a little juvenile to you now with the chores, employment, family, and general life obligations. The thing is, this passion is still inside of you. Maybe playing guitar for that punk band in high school didn’t end up in a successful music career – but the art of playing guitar, appreciating music, and the drive to be better (or even the best) at whatever it was you were in love with at that time is still a part of who you are. Let that side of you show more and encourage yourself to grow in these areas as it ultimately created a big part of who you are today. 

Set Aside Time For Self-Care

I know you have heard this probably a million times (no exaggeration), but self-care is one of the BEST and MOST IMPORTANT things you can do for you and your relationship. Setting time aside to take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually will help set you and your relationship up for success.  

It’s easy to say “yeah, yeah, I get it…self-care, I got it – thanks!” It’s a lot harder to follow through with it and meet yourself where you need it the most. If you are finding yourself needing a little emotional vacay, check out: Emotional Self Care When Your Life is Falling Apart.

Self-care may be a habitual event for you – like drinking coffee and having quiet time before the family wakes up. Or it might be a little less traditional and change week to week. Whatever your body, heart, and mind are telling you, be sure to listen. Your ability to take care of yourself ultimately affects your ability to take care of others. 

If you find yourself getting irritable, depressed, angry, stressed-out, overwhelmed, or even just complacent – that’s your cue that it’s time for a little me time

Self-care doesn’t mean that you have to spend time alone. Self-care is different for everyone and if that means a weekend (or couple hours) to yourself, awesome. And if it means something entirely different, that’s great too. 

Here’s to YOU and the awesome individual you are in and out of your relationship. 

Xo, 
Lisa Marie Bobby

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Let’s  Talk

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You Deserve Compassionate Support

As a therapist, life coach, and marriage counselor, I admire each and every person who gathers the courage to schedule an appointment with me and seek support for themselves, their relationships, or their families. I know that they’re investing in themselves because they believe they are worthy of investing in. Such self-awareness, wisdom and healthy self-love is always inspiring.

Do You Prioritize Everything Except Yourself?

Too many people put themselves on the bottom of the heap, investing in every other aspect of their lives — their education, their career, their children, their friendships, their homes — but rarely their own personal wellness, or their hearts desire. Is this you?

If so, you probably put off investing in yourself, getting professional help, and taking positive action to improve your life… though you’re there for everyone else. You may think about it sometimes but quickly talk yourself out of it, minimize your feelings, or prioritize someone else’s needs

If this sounds familiar, my guess is that you would describe yourself as a naturally strong person, but the downside of “being strong” is that sometimes it comes with a price: Not taking care of you, the way you take care of others.

But it’s easy not to take care of you, isn’t it? Especially when it comes to things like getting involved in therapy, couples counseling or life coaching. There are so many persistent myths in our culture about all the reasons NOT to get support, and it’s time to bash them! 

What’s Keeping YOU From Investing In Yourself?

Let’s talk through some of the most common reasons I hear for why people avoid getting help and investing in themselves, and why they’re not true!

Myth #1: “Therapy should be reserved for times when you really need it, and I don’t have it ‘that bad.'” 

This is one I hear frequently, even when people have resolved to book a therapy or coaching appointment with me. 

Believe it or not, even people in a lot of pain sometimes feel guilty for doing something to help themselves. They tell me about challenges they face, or hard things they’re grappling with but then quickly say, “But so many others around the world have it so much worse. I’m really so lucky.” 

While being grateful and keeping things in perspective is a wonderful strength to have, it’s also a liability if it makes you feel like you don’t have a right to your feelings, or can’t feel sad, angry or hurt about something true for you. 

As a feminist-oriented therapist, I am always happy to have a conversation about power and privilege, and I firmly believe that we are all worthy of healing and belonging. 

If there is something in your life that feels painful or difficult to overcome, my hope for you is to feel like you deserve to be supported just as much as anyone else. 

If you feel guilty when you think about making your feelings a priority, think about it this way: investing in yourself as a way to make yourself even stronger, and more able to give empathy and compassion to other people. 

Truth: Your experience and your emotions matter. YOU matter. 

Myth #2: Therapy is for couples who are on the brink of ending their relationship or divorcing. We aren’t there yet, we can fix this on our own. 

Too many couples buy into this. 

Perhaps conflict in your relationship occurs fairly infrequently currently, yet when it does occur you notice that you and your partner tend to sweep things under the rug and avoid addressing the conflict. You might write this off to a one-time thing, or feel that because it’s infrequent, it won’t matter in the long run. 

However, each time we sweep conflict under the rug or avoid it all together, we are slowly solidifying the pattern of our relationship. This pattern makes it not only more likely that conflict will become more frequent, but potentially also increasingly eruptive and ultimately, more damaging to your bond over time. 

If you happen to notice early in your relationship that you and your partner are conflict avoidant, talk about reaching out to a therapist or a relationship coach so that you can identify effective ways to face conflict together and strengthen your bond and understanding of each other.

Myth #3: If we go to couples counseling we are admitting that our relationship is unhealthy. 

We know from marriage and family researchers Drs. John and Julie Gottman that conflict is inevitable in every relationship. What separates “healthy” couples from “unhealthy” couples is what they DO with it. 

The healthiest, happiest, strongest couples are the ones who openly address their differences and find ways of proactively, constructively working through things together. Couples who do this important growth work strengthen their relationships. Couples who seek support for their relationship, and who are open to learning how to communicate and compromise will have more positive outcomes. Investing in their relationships sets them up for success long-term.

Couples who avoid this work, or who allow unresolved conflict to simmer, fester, and become increasingly toxic are inadvertently damaging their relationship. By sweeping things under the rug and not getting help for their relationship, they are increasing the likelihood that their relationship will fail. 

Furthermore, research into couples and family therapy shows that the couples who choose to work together on their relationship sooner rather than later have better outcomes. Any marriage counselor will tell you that it’s much easier to work with a couple who still like, love, and trust each other. 

Couples who wait, ignore problems, and let anger and resentment build up often enter couples counseling on the brink of divorce. There is so much regrettable history between them, so much hurt, and so much damage done that — even with the best marriage counseling — sometimes their relationship is simply too far gone to repair. 

Investing in your marriage sooner rather than later is like taking care of your health: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Myth #4: I’m too busy, whatever I’m dealing with can wait, it will be too expensive, and / or there just isn’t any time. 

When I was in graduate school a common phrase we heard was “What we resist, persists,” and the more I sit with couples and individuals in my office, the more I find this to be true. 

I frequently meet with those that have been “avoiding” therapy by placing it lower and lower on their list of priorities and by the time they’re in my office, they are overwhelmed and exhausted from carrying their distress for so long. 

Often times, these are the individuals who spend a great deal of time taking care of others and rarely make time for themselves or their own needs. Or they are couples with children and stressful careers and aging parents who truly can’t fathom stepping away for an hour for fear of everything falling apart.

Or sometimes people put this off because they’re worried about how much therapy, life coaching or marriage counseling will cost…. Without considering the value investing in themselves will bring to their lives. They’ll spend money on furniture, vacations, or home improvement projects without much thought. But when it comes to investing in their own health and happiness, their success, or in their most cherished relationships… they stop themselves. 

One way to shift this self-limiting perspective is to think about this from the other side. Asking yourself questions like: 

  • “What is the cost of me NOT investing in myself?”
  • “What is the real price of me continuing to feel unhappy, or dissatisfied with my life?”
  •  “What am I losing, long term, by NOT investing in myself, or in my career, or in my marriage?”
  • “How is neglecting myself, my happiness and my relationship impacting my children?”
  • “How is the way I’m currently living impacting my health?”
  •  How much will it cost me — in dollars and cents — if we get divorced, or I never achieve my full earning potential in my career?”

When you put the short-term investment in yourself in context of the costs or benefits to aspects of your life that are genuinely priceless… it changes your perspective.

You Deserve Love, Happiness and Success

I want you to know that I see you, and that your well-being and happiness matters just as much as anyone else’s. You deserve space to cultivate growth and healing; you deserve time to rest and reset. You can’t pour from an empty cup, and you don’t have to carry this alone.   

 If you see yourself or your relationship in any of the myths above, my hope for you would be to spend some time reflecting on what is keeping you from this work. 

Remember though, whenever you are working with a coach or a therapist, you aren’t in this work alone. Are there other myths or beliefs you have that keep you from reaching out for support? Comment below and let’s continue this conversation!

Brittany Stewart, M.A., LMFT-C is a couples counselor, individual therapist, premarital counselor, and a life and relationship coach. She works with her clients to build connected relationships, restore emotional bonds, and grow in their capacity to love others as well as themselves.

Let’s  Talk

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