Why A 'Growth Mindset' Is Useful In A Relationship

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Our romantic relationships are where our good and bad character traits get reflected back at us the most, as if in a mirror. Think about it. You're doing life with them day in and day out. They see how you react under stress or angry moments. They know how you are when you're most vulnerable. And vice versa. 

This can feel both frustrating and freeing, depending on how you choose to look at it. According to psychologist Carol Dweck, who penned the book "Mindset: The New Psychology of Success," how we look at it will depend on what kind of mindset we possess — either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. The conversation around a growth vs. fixed mindset is not limited to relationships. It's been applied to work environments, personal improvement, and acquiring new and useful talents. A growth mindset says that you're not a passive onlooker in your life and relationships. You can take control and improve in the areas you want to improve. 

Dweck advocated that a growth mindset can help us see the world through a lens of opportunity rather than limitation. With a growth mindset, you acknowledge that you (and your partner) are works-in-progress and not a perfect or complete finished product at any given time. A growth mindset can be the difference between whether or not your relationship lasts a lifetime. Here are a few things a growth mindset can help accomplish in a relationship.

You might stop looking for the elusive 'perfect partner'

In a world that is increasingly promoting a fairytale notion of someone perfect being out there for you and dating apps that make it easier to move from one love interest to another within a matter of seconds, we can become stuck in a loop of eternally searching for the ideal significant other. And while it is not wrong to date with an intentional mindset, it is not ideal to keep moving from one partner to another, whenever the smallest sign of mismatch arises in a relationship. 

Conflict is part and parcel of any relationship and it is a sign of two different people coming together. With a growth mindset, you will learn to look at conflict as an opportunity for improvement — both for yourselves and the relationship. If you have a fixed mindset, any perceived difference in opinion is looked at as something insurmountable. 

Life coach Amanda Da Silva wrote in her blog, "Growth mindsets are especially useful in your relationships because they can help both parties overcome obstacles instead of viewing them as hurdles that are impossible to cross." Even outside the context of dating and in long-term relationships, having a growth mindset can help you avoid looking outward and falling into the trap of thinking that the grass is always greener on the other side. Da Silva added, "If we continue seeing problems in relationships in terms of pros and cons, it will eventually fall apart."

A growth mindset will help you view yourself and your partner more kindly

Licensed marriage and family therapist Elizabeth Earnshaw wrote for The Gottman Institute, "The way we think about our relationship and our partner matters. As a relationship develops, people develop beliefs about themselves, their partner, and the relationship. These beliefs influence the way we act within the relationship, how much motivation we feel, how vulnerable and open we can be, and how flexible we are willing to be." 

Expecting perfection for yourself, your partner, or your relationship can be exhausting. A growth mindset is not about reaching perfection. It's about viewing yourself as someone who has the potential to evolve and become a better version of yourself. It's about avoiding the limiting notion that you will always be who you are today — talents, intellect, abilities, and traits-wise.

When conflicts arise and you choose to look at them with a fixed mindset, there's defensiveness and blaming. Statements like, "You always ignore me," or "You never do the one thing I ask of you," can start to feel absolute and limiting. If you're at the receiving end of them, you might get frustrated and if you're the one repeating yourself to your partner, you can be tempted to think that things will never get better. With a growth mindset, you would choose to look ahead as a couple together and believe that with hard work and consistency, there is room for improvement.