And here I thought a relationship meant you find the best person to tolerate you as you are. I came into the dating world with a big “AS IS” poster taped to my forehead. Well, just like when I play darts (or anything involving accuracy), I was way off the mark. I’ve since learned that the greatest measure of a relationship is how much two people grow together.
I’ve got some bad habits. We’ve all do. For instance, I can be quite messy and disorganized. I’m the guy who’d rather they invent a GPS device to find my keys and wallet instead of having a set place where I leave them every day. Truth be told, I came into my relationship thinking that was just the way I was and there was nothing my boyfriend could do about it. You read my online profile. You saw my answers to those OkCupid questions. You get what you get, was my mentality.
A life partner wants you to be better. If you stay the exact same person you were were you entered the relationship, chances are your partner doesn’t care about your well-being. If they truly love you, then they won’t stand to watch you do things that are harmful for you. Like a mother who shows up to every parent conference at school to make sure your grades are on point, a partner who’s in it for the long run has your best interests at heart.
A life partner holds you accountable. For instance, if you say you want to lose weight, don’t get mad when your partner tries to stop you from eating the whole pint of Haagen Daz White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle. Forget the fact that they are two for $5 at the grocery store. Instead of using your spoon to fend him off like it’s a lightsaber, know that he’s just looking out for you. (Of course, this is just a random example and has absolutely nothing to do with me.)
A life partner sees your true potential. Someone who loves you as you are also sees what you could be. They encourage you to do better. Let’s say you’ve always dreamed of being a lawyer but was never really to make the jump. The next thing you know, you see a humongous Kaplan LSAT prep book on the coffee table. They want you to pursue your goals just as much as you do and want to help in any way they can. Let them.
A life partner gently nudges you; they don’t push. No matter how beneficial something is to someone, you can’t force-feed it down their throats. I should know. I’ve taught high school students for six years. Trying to tell a class of adolescents that learning Spanish provides better career opportunities is like telling a 5-year old that high sugar intake may lead to health problems later in life. They don’t see the bigger picture. Prohibiting your toddler from all sugar will incur their rage. They’ll won’t look like their obese friends (hey, the numbers are going up!), but they’ll still hate you.
So you have to nudge. Encourage them to do better. Support them in any way they can. If they say they want to run thrice a week, why not go running with them once or twice. It’s a cliche example but it gets the point across. A loving partner encourages, they don’t push.
A life partner doesn’t want to change you for selfish reasons. It may be hard to discern your partner’s motives in the moment, but when you step back it becomes clear why they want you to change. Suddenly, you realize she wants you to go to the gym because she’s attracted to men with six-packs, not because she’s concerned about your health. Or now you see he wants you to stop hanging out with toxic friendships simply because he’s controlling. A life partner encourages you to do things that are generally good for you, like being organized, healthy, thrifty, etc, or to accomplish goals you’ve set yourself.
A life partner cares about your future. When a life partner tries to change you for your own good, it shows they see a future with you. Otherwise, why would they even care? You don’t encourage someone on a one-night stand to start investing in their retirement fund. Well, maybe you do. I don’t know. But you get the point. If someone wants you to be a better person, it’s because they love you and see a future with you. Just like owners generally take better care of a house than renters, when your partner is personally invested in your growth then you’ve got yourself a free life coach for as long as you are together.