Recently I was watching a TED talk by Stanford University researcher Carol Dweck on kid’s education and fixed vs growth mindset. She spoke about how these mindsets contribute to academic failure or success, respectively.
While Dr. Dweck’s work is about kids and education, as I watched her talk, I was thinking about adults and relationships.
Both men and women have either a fixed or a growth mindset when it comes to relationships, and this mindset has an enormous impact on the success or failure of their relationships, respectively.
In this article I will expose the impact of a fixed mindset and explain how it guarantees relationship pain, and even failure. I will then show you how to incorporate a growth mindset for your relationship satisfaction and happiness.
The Fixed Mindset minefield:
Most men and women would be surprised to find that they have a fixed mindset when it comes to relationships, without being aware of it.
Single men and women hold the belief that meeting the right partner is all it takes to create that one relationship they have been waiting for. Once they meet their right partner, the relationship will mostly take care of itself, becoming a stable base for their life.
In a relationship or marriage men and women hold the belief that their relationship partner should accept them just as they are. “Accept me as I am and don’t ask me to change” is held as a basic prerequisite for getting along and being happy in a relationship.
In fact, singles begin to test for this acceptance from their new partner fairly soon after meeting. As the couple moves toward establishing a relationship, there is often an ongoing conversation of “can you accept me as I am and live with my habits?”
This desire for stability and acceptance is normal and healthy, and yet, has a strong negative impact on relationships when it is the only approach.
Let’s look at the impact of a fixed mindset on your past or current relationship.
Think about either your past or current relationship as you answer the following questions:
- What is the reason you ended the relationship with your last partner, or he or she ended the relationship with you?
- What is the ongoing problem in your current relationship?
- What was the reason or topic for your last fight with your partner?
- What was going on in your relationship the last time you considered whether you are in the right relationship or not?
In each scenario above the overarching issue is one of staying the same vs making changes. When the request for change in a relationship is resisted and rejected, the relationship becomes strained or even ends as a result.
The resistance and rejection of change is a result of a fixed mindset, the belief that personal change and growth are not a normal part of a relationship. In this requests for change from a partner are viewed as unreasonable and demanding.
The thing is, if a relationship was supposed to function only as a place of acceptance, the issue of change would not come up in every single relationship. And yet it does.
Partners do need to accept each other lovingly in many ways. However, acceptance alone will not make for a loving, solid, life-long, vibrant, happy relationship, as it is only half the story of what makes a relationship work.
The Growth-Oriented Mindset:
Some couples do survive and thrive through the change part of being in a relationship. They make it because they hold a different mindset about what a relationship is and how it should work. Whether they know it or not, they accept that the requests for change and the need to grow and change personally are a normal part of being in a relationship.
In essence the couples that make it incorporate a growth-oriented mindset in the way they view relationships. They understand that a healthy relationship will have both acceptance of each other and the need to change and grow, in equal measure.
There is an even deeper secret that most couples, even healthy ones, are not aware of: the changes required to continue the relationship on the trajectory of health and happiness are often the most difficult changes to make. The happiest couples are those where both partners are able and willing to make these difficult changes.
You may be wondering if any request for change from a relationship partner should then be honored, even if that change feels wrong to you.
To show you which changes are healthy in a relationship and which are not, and how to go about the process of change, I will be sharing a series of article on this topic in my newsletter.
Relationships are successful and happy when they are both a place of acceptance and a place to grow and change. They work best when they are both a place to rest and a place that asks you to stretch far beyond your comfort zone.
So what should you do about this in your dating or relationship life?
Single man or woman:
- If you do not like change, be forewarned that any relationship partner is likely to ask you for change, and you him or her. If you want a long-term relationship, you must embrace change and growth as part of the process. The first step is to shift to a growth-oriented mindset, learning how to become flexible in your thinking and embracing change.
- If you already have a growth-oriented mindset, select a partner who shares it. If you do not, you will soon be asking for change from a person who has no desire for or skill set for change.
- To get clear on whether you have a growth-oriented mindset and what to do about this in terms of dating, schedule a Get Clarity Coaching Session. In this 30-minute session I will help you strategically move towards creating the relationship you want.
In a relationship or marriage:
- The next time you or your partner ask each other for change, remember that this is perfectly normal and healthy and is supposed to happen as a part of being in a relationship. If your partner resists change, forward him or her this article to read and then discuss it.
- If the two of you do not know how to change to give each other what is needed, I can help. Set up a Get Clarity Coaching Session for yourself or Couple’s Get Clarity Coaching Session for both of you, to problem solve how to palatably and effectively incorporate change into your relationship, so that your relationship can thrive.