Is Personal Growth Really Good for Your Relationships?


In a recent forum, a powerful thinker asked, “Who would you have to disappoint or abandon in order to devote yourself to your art this year?

It is a powerful question. It makes us think about those we depend on and who are dependent on us, and where that dependency might be a little crippling. It may reveal whose approval we are tied into. It reminds us that there are people whose feelings we consider, people we care about deeply.

Many of us do tend to consciously and unconsciously curtail our growth, personal and /or professional, because we fear it will upset the apple cart in our relationships. I recently spoke with a woman whose latest professional opportunity will drastically reduce the amount of time she is able to spend with her family. It’s a common and responsible conundrum, and she’s not sure yet which impulse she’ll follow.

In the chaos of living, good relationships are one of the things that stabilize us. When we transform ourselves, our relationships follow suit. Share on X Change is destabilizing — and for most people, destabilization is very triggering. When people are emotionally triggered or feeling insecure, relationships suffer. Sometimes, sadly, they cannot withstand the stress, and people grow apart.

But does that make personal growth an adversary to good relationships? Not at all. Here are three ways that illustrate how one person’s growth is a boon to any real relationship:

1. Leading By Example: You may have already been exposed to the theory that personal growth serves our relationship because any pain our loved ones feel as a result of our expansion — feelings of abandonment, insecurity, jealousy, etc. — will force them to confront their demons and inspire them to grow if they want to keep up with the relationship. When Adam took on a new job he loved, the jealously Charlie felt inspired him to follow suit and find a job that made his soul sing. I call this “leading by example.” I’ve also referred to this phenomenon with my private clients as “leap frogging”: when one person’s change inspires change in the other, and so on.

2. The Return to Self: Growth can be good for your relationship even it requires reduced time, attention and increased distance due to travel for time-limited spurts, because the space it creates between you gives you an opportunity to reconnect with who you are — apart from the relationship. This in turn, in a relationship with trust and commitment, can actually be an opportunity to move towards each other with more fullness, and inspire desire in an “absence makes the heart grow fonder” kind of way. You each become fuller, and ultimately, closer.

3. The Gift of Novelty: When Sandra began to paint full time, according to her girlfriend and close friends, she became somebody different — somebody cheerful, vibrant and more connected. She laughs as she recalls how her departure from crankiness confused her intimates, who freaked out and “didn’t know what the hell to do with me.” When you pursue your potential, you get to experience different sides of yourself in relationship, and when your partner grows, vice-versa. New-ness is sexy.

Novelty keeps a relationship fresh and exciting Share on X

If you follow your own inner callings with conviction but not without consideration for how it will impact your loved ones, you will keep the mystery alive. You run the risk of creating discord, but you will be actively renewing your relationship. Then, you will not feel quite so limited and hemmed in by the shackles of routine, which threaten to stifle your creativity like a cement mold that you have to break out of via some dramatic and destructive means, such as an affair. Abandoning or disappointing your partner in pursuit of your art may create some temporary disturbance. But it also just might strengthen and even save your relationship in the long run.

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12 responses to “Is Personal Growth Really Good for Your Relationships?”

  1. Hi Blair,
    Love the post. “When we transform ourselves, our relationships follow suit” … is a home run.

    This one statement touched me both personally and professionally.

    So many people who are committed to transforming their own selves and lives, do worry about how their “new” state will affect their relationships.

    Glad to say, I find it was positive!! Really worth the courage to change.

    I was in a Twitter chat last night #DareToBe w/ Andrea Sanchez host … You would love it!! So apropos to what you are saying here.

    Happy New Year and best to you,

    • Blair Glaser says:

      Thank you so much for your response to this post. I am happy you found it “worth the courage to change” — a phrase that says everything. It does takes courage. It takes fortitude. And as I like to say, a certain kind of leadership. And then the rewards. . . .
      Can’t wait to check out that chat.
      Happy New Year to you, too Kate!

  2. Jill Leigh says:

    Blair, this is a great piece. Beautifully written, rich illustrations.

    I love your statement about conviction in choice, but not without consideration of your partner’s needs. Holding space and owning choices are such powerful resources for growth and evolution.

    I hope every person in relationship sees this article!

    • Blair Glaser says:

      Was doing some snooping and just found this wayward comment in my WordPress. So nice to see you on this blog, and thank you for reflections. I agree that the conviction / consideration combo is hugely important for relationships success.

  3. Terri Klass says:

    Your wise post spoke to me Blair while it also made me think.

    I find that in a healthy relationship it is essential for both people to keep growing. When that happens the relationship also keeps evolving and that keeps things exciting. A relationship runs into trouble when one person leaves the other behind. Sometimes that happens where I have seen only one person yearning to grow.

    Love your action points!!

    • Blair Glaser says:

      Thanks for your thoughts, Terri.
      Sadly my need to grow has outgrown a few good relationships, so I relate. I am with you — growth is essential!
      Thanks for stopping by, Terri!

  4. Samantha says:

    Lovely post my friend!

    Your picture and caption ‘The Pain and Beauty of Blossoming’ reminds me of the quote by Anais Nin:

    ‘The day came when the risk to remain tight within the bud became more painful than the risk it took to bloom.’

    I love your posts Blair. One of the reasons is because no one has to deny reality…we’re invited to walk the journey through it.

    Love to you! xo

    • Blair Glaser says:

      Yes, Samantha! That quote on my photo was inspired by that very profound and beautiful and slightly overused Anais Nin quote.
      Thank you Sam. So well put: “No one has to deny reality . . . we’re invited to walk the journey through it”. Thanks for walking with me!
      Love to you!

  5. Denise Moor says:

    “Many of us do tend to consciously and unconsciously curtail our growth, personal and /or professional, because we fear it will upset the apple cart in our relationships.” You have me thinking…about the unconsciously part. I have an identical twin…this is the case for us and it’s taking all I’ve got to move through…Appreciate. xo

    • Blair Glaser says:

      Thanks so much for stopping by. And for your share.
      It’s really brave to look and it’s brave to say out loud.
      It’s those pesky unconscious things that limit our choices.
      You are forging a path to greater freedom.
      xo back!

  6. Peter Wallace says:

    Hey Blair,

    Personal growth is dangerous to relationships. Not a bad thing, but seems to be a real and necessary thing. In a talk, Carolyn Myss confesses that she knows of no relationship that survives one partner truly transforming in their personal journey. I hope this is not so, but I don’t know. You can’t grow, and then turn to your partner and say, OK, time for you to grow also. You can let your partner know what’s going on as it happens, but even that is difficult, because how many of us actually know what’s going on as it happens? Perhaps (and I’m hoping this is so) we can live in a relationship that at times has the sense of: I’ll meet you on the other side. Growth is unpredictable, and we certainly can’t say we’ll be growing in the same way, or the same direction.

    Jeffrey is a very smart man. “Abandon” and “disappoint” have more to do, is seems, with “leaving behind” simply because you must move forward on the journey you are truly on. You’re walking that much faster.

    I love you, Blair!


    • Blair Glaser says:

      Such wisdom, Peter!
      “You can’t grow, and then turn to your partner and say, OK, time for you to grow also.”
      No you can’t . . . and yet, isn’t that, in essence, what we do in committed relationships? When we take the job, pursue our art, explore new spiritual vistas? In a sense we are forcing our partners to adapt in some way.
      “Perhaps (and I’m hoping this is so) we can live in a relationship that at times has the sense of: I’ll meet you on the other side.” YES! This is what I mean by leading by example and “leap frogging.” The space in-between the catch up can be filled with awkwardness. But that’s real, and the tension hopefully leads a renewed sense of closeness in the end.
      Thanks for reading, stopping by and your love. It is mutual!

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