Relationships are amazing. I believe we were put on this earth to interact with many types of people – finding the ones (our tribe) that are right for us, right now – and learning about ourselves in the process. When this happens, we grow!

Have you ever noticed that you can clearly see someone else’s strengths and weaknesses with much more apparent ease than they can? Have you ever looked to your friends, your partners and even strangers, to sometimes see facets of you: both things you like and those you are not so proud of? Let’s think about it for a minute. Do you believe this could be a powerful tool for growth or are others responsible for what you don’t like about yourself? 

When was the last time you looked at a person and noticed something about them that you liked? When have you seen something in another that you were not so fond of? If you can’t think of anything now, save it for later, but be mindful of this. The next time – which will probably be sooner than later – you find yourself criticizing or complimenting someone, assess yourself and see if those same things or similarities live in you. Increasing your self-awareness and practicing being honest with yourself allows you to grow.

Quite frequently we are unable to see the really great qualities in ourselves, yet they are so easy to spot in someone else. We may be in denial about something regarding our behavior that would serve us if we changed it, but we immediately notice those exact same traits in the other guy. We project the good and the not so great in us, onto someone else. According to the "Dictionary of Psychology," projection happens when we attribute our own traits, attitudes and faults to another.

With this prelude, we can examine our romantic relationships and the necessary element of the Fifth Human Need: Growth. Without personal growth, we are stagnant and eventually we die, figuratively speaking. In our relationships, stagnation leads to lack of variety, which opens the door for boredom. Through the lens of boredom, we may find a host of ways to push love away.

There are qualities we see in our partner that we admire and enjoy. There are some that we find annoying. Do you recognize those in yourself? It is often difficult to see our qualities and faults; by using others as a mirror we can be more honest and unbiased about our own attributes.

Try these simple things to grow intentionally and to strengthen your relationship:

1. Observe how you are similar to the person you are complementing.

2. Observe the critique you give to others, even if the critique is in your head. Is there an aspect of you in your observation of another?

3. Keep your power by being responsible for your behavior and choices.

4. Practice seeing the best in everyone; this will lead you to seeing the best in yourself.

Dr. Lateefah Wielenga works as a life and relationship coach and is also an ordained minister. She has a private practice in Long Beach. Call 895-0516 or visit www.thecounselingkitchen.com for details.

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