Forward progress is a funny thing. It’s important to strive for in all areas of life but it can be hard to gauge. And it can lead to tricky questions like, am I moving in the right direction? Are we? When it comes to relationships, this is more often true than not, especially when there’s so much fear-inducing messaging about what makes marriages fail rather than what makes them succeed. It’s crucial for couples to grow together, to become more comfortable, to build trust, to gain confidence, but what are the signs of growth in a relationship to focus on?
Growth, notes Dr. Ketan Parmar, a psychiatrist and mental health expert at ClinicSpots, is an essential aspect of any healthy and fulfilling relationship. “It means that you and your partner are not only compatible, but also willing to learn, change, and evolve together,” he says. Growth in a relationship, he adds, can take many forms, such as overcoming challenges, pursuing goals, developing new skills, or exploring new interests. “When you grow together as a couple, you strengthen your bond, deepen your intimacy, and enhance your happiness.”
So, as it’s always nice to be able to chart your progress and track where you are from where you’ve been, here are some surefire signs your relationships is growing in a positive direction. Take note, and also take a minute to realize just how far you’ve come.
1. You Communicate Openly And Honestly
A telltale sign of relationship growth that you become much, much better at communicating. You make time to connect. You improve your active listening. You show respect for each other’s differences and find constructive, healthy ways to resolve conflicts and develop a foundation for lasting success. “When you communicate openly and honestly with your partner, you express your needs, feelings, opinions, and desires without fear of judgment or rejection,” says Parmar. “You also listen attentively and empathetically to your partner's perspective and try to understand their point of view.”
2. You Support Each Other’s Goals
As you grow as a couple, you also continue to grow as individuals. That means that, over time, you will develop your own set of personal and professional goals. Couples that are growing together support these goals and help each other try and achieve them. No matter the outcome, they’re there to celebrate those achievements and support their partner when they don’t pan out. “When you support each other's goals and dreams, you show that you care about your partner's happiness and fulfillment,” Parmar says. “You also respect their autonomy and independence, and allow them to have their own space and time. By supporting each other's goals and dreams, you inspire each other to grow and thrive.”
3. You Accept Each Other's Flaws And Mistakes
With time comes awareness. Awareness of flaws, quirks, imperfections. After you’re together for a few years, you shouldn’t be surprised by, say, your partner’s inability to gargle without getting mouthwash residue all over the mirror. This definitely doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t all try to address certain issues and better ourselves. But some quirks are just quirks and a big part of growth is to take them in stride and recognize that, well, your partner is a person and people are weird. “By accepting each other's flaws and mistakes, you create a safe and supportive environment for growth,” says Parmar. “You forgive each other for the past and focus on the present and the future. You also help each other overcome your weaknesses, and highlight each other's strengths.”
4. You Challenge Each Other To Be Better
Everyone has room for improvement, and healthy couples motivate each other to step out of their comfort zones, face their fears, and overcome obstacles. Couples who challenge each other each believe in their partner’s potential and want them to grow into the people they know they can become. “Growth also involves pushing yourself and your partner to be better versions of yourselves,” says Parmar. “By challenging each other to be better, you foster a growth mindset in your relationship.”
5. You Have Fun Together
This one’s simple. Couples who are without a doubt growing together enjoy each other’s company. They have fun. They like to do things together, are playful, and often have a shared sense of humor. They help each other relieve stress and tension through shared jokes, spontaneous gestures, and lighthearted exchanges. “You also create positive associations with your relationship and increase your attraction and affection for each other,” says Parmar. “By having fun together as a couple, you cultivate joy in your relationship.”
6. Your Mindset Has Moved From “Me” to “We”
When you shift from an individual mindset to one that includes each other — and you don’t question that you’re a team — that’s a sure sign of growth. Couples who do this think about shared goals and what you both strive for and what each of you needs to make the relationship work. This doesn’t mean you don’t think of your own needs or your partner’s individual needs; it means that you balance all the various needs “Healthy relationships require both members to value what is in the best interest of themselves, their partner, and the relationship as a whole,” says Laura Silverstein, LCSW, a certified couples therapist and the author of Love Is an Action Verb.
7. You Trust In Each Other Grows
Growth and trust have a complementary relationship. When one increases, so does the other. When you trust your partner, it means that you feel safe to be vulnerable and open with them, that you can share your thoughts, aspirations, and fears without having to worry about judgment or criticism. You spend less time wondering if they actually believe you and more on other areas of growth. “When you are secure in your relationship, you know that you are loved, liked and respected,” says SIlverstein. “When this is the foundation for a secure attachment, couples will doubt their partner's feelings and intentions less and less, which can lead to a feeling of comfort and security.”
8. You Are More Comfortable With Intimacy
With a growing sense of trust, couples also become more comfortable being intimate, both emotionally and physically. Couples who are growing in the right direction are more comfortable opening up about their deeper issues or insecurities. “In the beginning, it is normal to keep up some walls to protect yourself,” says Silverstein, “but over time, as you share your true thoughts, fears, and insecurities, you can feel even more deeply loved when your partner accepts your whole self.”
9. You Make Time For Self Care
Relationship growth requires individual growth. When couples can give each other space to engage in self care and attend to their own personal needs, it’s a sign of a healthy, well-balanced partnership. “Taking care of one's own needs might include carving out time for oneself or time with friends and family,” Silverstein says, “and enrolling in activities that bring joy and fulfillment–even if your partner doesn't prefer those activities.”
10. You’re Thinking About The Future
Couples who grow together begin to develop a shared vision for what their future will look like together. They engage in discussions about what their life will look like down the road and begin to make plans to bring that vision to life. “Couples begin to imagine their partners by their sides as they plan their future dreams,” says Silverstein. “It becomes harder to imagine a world where their partner is not there.”