Posted By: Kelly Seal Date: 09-05-2018 Comments: 1
Many people seek self-improvement to heal and find joy, whether it’s by going to therapy, practicing meditation, or adopting daily habits of self-care. Self-improvement is definitely a positive, and leads to a happier existence. However, what happens to our relationships when we focus too much on ourselves? Does our desire for personal growth end up interfering with our ability – or desire – to form intimate relationships with others?
One could argue both ways. When your focus your attention only on your own needs, it seems counter-productive to dating and forming relationships. After all, it’s harder to connect when you are wrapped up in your personal goals and happiness so much that you don’t pay attention to your date. On the other hand, if you don’t do some self-reflection to change negative patterns in your life, you will face the same challenges over and over again, limiting your ability to seek a happy long-term partnership.
So is it better to just refrain from dating when you’re working on self-improvement? Or can dating and self-improvement go hand-in-hand, and how?
I think you can absolutely do both, and that part of our personal development depends on how we relate to others. Following are some ways dating and forming romantic relationships can help us with self-improvement:
Relationships provide a mirror.
Let’s look at things from a practical perspective. We are here in the world, struggling with life’s daily challenges while still seeking joy. When we connect with people, it adds to our existence, and it also pushes us to grow. We are social creatures by nature, and we understand ourselves better in the context of relationships, whether they are friendships, romantic partnerships, or family.
When you date it provides a built-in opportunity for self-improvement. You can work on your social skills, challenge your insecurities, or face your fears – whatever pushes you. Instead of looking at your date’s flaws or strengths and comparing them to some ideal, you can use the date as an exercise for you to grow – to open up, to share, to be more engaged and see what happens.
Relationships are great teachers.
When you have enough distance from a previous love, perhaps you can look back and think about what you learned. For instance, if she cheated on you, then you learned to be more discerning, or to state your feelings and talk through issues rather than just ignoring them. Or if you felt disrespected in a previous relationship, you know that going into the next one, you won’t sacrifice so much of yourself, and remember to take care of your own needs.
When you date, you have an opportunity to let go of old hurts and make room for new experiences. So try this as part of your self-improvement strategy: write down 10 things you’ve learned from previous relationships. Then write 10 things you desire in a future partner. Knowing what you want and seeing how far you’ve come are keys to growth.
Dating means no more excuses.
Many people resist dating when they are working on self-improvement. It provides a way to avoid the challenges of relationships and potentially getting hurt. This doesn’t help with your self-improvement journey; in fact, it can set you back.
Following are some reasons you might use to avoid relationships:
When you make excuses to avoid dating, you’re holding back your own growth. The true self-improvement challenge is allowing yourself to be vulnerable, and to face getting hurt or rejected. It’s a tough lesson but it’s the only path forward to love. Instead of avoiding it, try embracing it – let down your armor, because this is what allows two people to truly connect.
Applaud yourself for wanting to improve, for craving health and happiness, for choosing a more difficult yet fulfilling path in life. But most importantly, enjoy the process – you are meant to find joy even when you experience life’s challenges. Personal growth is its own reward.