How to Inspire Your Partner to Grow
Hint: Stop pushing and mind your own business.
For a long time, I waited for a partner to inspire me. I perceived myself as an interesting and hard-working woman — in my mind, I deserved to be inspired. Yet, inspiration was the missing ingredient for all my previous relationships. After a short-lived marriage and a few fruitless relationships, life pushed me to wake up to the truth about inspiration, and thank god it did.
When you expect to be inspired, you are essentially saying to yourself “I am not enough to inspire myself”. You are discounting your creative, curious, and independent nature. You are yearning to be moved by something, someone else, while the true awe is within you. Of course, we are social beings and we impact one another significantly. That’s why we must be wise in choosing a person as a partner or a close friend. We should make sure that they respect who we are and we should enjoy each other’s company.
The truth is that expecting inspiration is a false ideal — mainly originated in western romantic fantasies. You see it in the movies, books, IG feeds: “Be with someone who inspires you.” But, it is less often that we see the messages preaching “Be the one who inspires.” Because it is easy to make it someone else’s job to motivate or make you feel happy. Because our perception of life is so dulled down, we’ve forgotten to see every part of life as a source of inspiration.
Luckily for me, a good friend pointed out my unreasonable demand to be inspired by the man I love. It wasn’t only inspiration I was looking for. I had a long list; he had to be good looking, smart, funny, driven, have the potential to be a good father, successful, well-read, interesting, etc, as a bare minimum. She listened patiently and simply said: “Girl, you’ve got to inspire yourself!” With that, I started waking up.
I met a man who didn’t check off everything on my list. I couldn’t see how he could fit into my life yet alone inspire me. On the other hand, he was full of life and fun. He respected me and he was ready to love. It was incredibly difficult for me not to have my list complete, but this time I knew I had to do something different — I had to work on being my own list.
After almost 2 years of hard work, doubts, and ego breakdowns, I am amazed that now my boyfriend and I live a life beyond what I could imagine. Not only do we have so much fun and intimacy, but we challenge each other to dream big and grow constantly.
In my eyes, my boyfriend transformed from a person who didn’t have much ambition to live an inspired life to one who is self-aware and driven to grow. The following steps contribute to this transformation tremendously:
Accept who they are
Don Miguel Ruiz, in Mastery of Love, says:
“If you decide to be with a person, don’t try to change anything about her. Just like your dog or your cat, let her be who she is. She has the right to be who she is; she has a right to be free. When you inhibit your partner’s freedom, you inhibit your own because you have to be there to see what your partner is doing or not doing.”
The first step is to decide whether you can accept the person. At first, it was confusing to me how I could decipher whether I could accept him. I wasn’t sure what was reasonable to compromise and what I couldn’t live with. In time, it’s become clear to me that acceptance is dependent on whether:
Your values are aligned
The timing works — where you are emotionally/physically when you meet
You enjoy being around each other most of the time
I also have been using acceptance as a spiritual challenge. Whenever things that bothered me come up, I question:
Does it bother me because my ego is triggered?
Am I trying to control him aka mold him into what I want?
We all crave acceptance; to be acknowledged and celebrated for everything we are — good, bad, and ugly. Therefore, acceptance is the greatest gift that we can give to one another. It makes us feel safe to express and explore the depth of our identities. It removes the need for defense so that we can hear each other as well as our inner compass. We feel safer to face our demons and dare to do better.
Once I started accepting more and more of my boyfriend, I saw that he started relaxing into who really is. Because he was able to express himself without fear of abandonment or judgment, the man he has been, and the man he aspired to be started coming out. Interestingly enough, I started experiencing him as funnier, smarter, more thoughtful, and more interesting.
Get clear about whether you can accept your person at this point in your life, the way they are, not the potential they might have.
Identify your own flaws and reflect on how other people in your life love you despite them.
When you feel bothered by your partner, try the questions above.
Respect their own growth curve
It is normal to desire your partner to grow. However, if you have a specific agenda for their growth, chances are you’re trying to control them. This shows up as having specific timelines or action plans for what they can/should do. It also comes up in the form of disappointment: “I told you to do x, and you didn’t do it by y..”
The truth is we all have different growth curves. Some of us need more trial and error to decide what we want and don’t want. Pushing your own ideas of growth is not only futile, but it creates unnecessary friction and power wars.
If your intention is truly to support their growth, you probably need to do a lot of listening and to start offering what they need (not what you think they need). When you do that, it is a lot easier for your partner to come to their own conclusions organically and therefore apply the changes to grow.
I certainly have been at fault for shoving my plans for him in his face. The only result I got is disappointment on my end, and feelings of falling short on his end. When I started giving up the need to control his growth and let him figure it out, to my surprise he began to step up and take more actions.
List the things you want for your partner to have/achieve. Question whether it is your list or shared by both of you.
Ask your partner: “What are your dreams/goals?” and just listen. Make sure that it doesn’t feel like an interrogation, but more like an exploration.
Don’t give unsolicited advice yet be honest
This one goes hand in hand with respecting their growth curve. One of the most important skills they teach in coaching training is to stop giving unsolicited advice. And it is for a reason. When we hear a suggestion that we haven’t sought, it either lands as criticism or an idea we are not ready to take in.
I am sure you have ideas about how/what your partner should be doing. Maybe you experience a nagging urge to correct or direct your partner because you are convinced that you know better. But, guess what? We all feel like we know the best — it is one of the ways the human ego manifests.
If your partner is asking your opinion, by all means, lay out your perspective. If they asked you to give them feedback or keep them accountable, be honest, and do what’s helpful. Try this:
Catch yourself as you give unsolicited advice to your friends, family, and partner. Reflect on the motivation behind it.
If you want to offer a view, ask if they are willing to receive it.
Ask your partner: “How can I support you?”
Make them feel seen
It is so easy to be blind to small details in our rushed and cluttered lives. It is typical to miss the wonderful qualities, small gestures, and humble acts of love of our loved ones. Our brains become selective and negatively biased, ignoring what it deems “usual”. So many of us are also numbed by the stress only to notice the other person when something significant happens.
But, just like acceptance, seeing the other person — noticing and acknowledging their expression — is an extraordinary gift. It feels as though our right to exist and express is affirmed. We feel significant and loved. This feeling empowers us to be fully ourselves and nudges us to evolve.
Seeing someone shows up in many different ways; celebrating small progress, thanking them for their effort, complimenting on something unique to them, listening to them attentively, turning to them when they hurt…What’s common is the attention and care directed towards your loved one.
When I remember to do this with my boyfriend, I always get incredible feedback: He lights up, I see a huge smile or the pride on his face, and I hear his confident voice. It is much more rewarding than only acknowledging or appreciating him for things I deem to be “big things.
Give yourself a week to identify and write down all the little things your partner has/does. Also, notice all the small victories/progress they have had.
Start by telling them what you’ve noticed in a week and see the effect on your partner.
Make “noticing” a part of your day; notice not only your partner but every human you meet. This will help you make it a habit.
Focus on your own dreams and growth
This is by far the most important way to inspire your partner to grow. When you are primarily preoccupied with your own dreams and channel all your energy to achieve them, you create a magnetic aura around you.
Your excitement is contagious, and your focus is powerful- which is the true description of inspiration.
You aren’t worried about what others do or don’t. You don’t force anyone to change. Your full attention is on becoming/creating. Curiously, this way of being and acting is enough to affect others and instigate change. In fact, it is the most effective way.
When you focus on yourself, there is no judgment or control on the other person. You just become a model demonstrating how great it feels to grow and go after your dreams. Your partner sees that and says: “I want that, too!”
When I discovered the power of minding my own business, it not only empowered me exponentially but inspired my partner to rise up to his dreams. A year ago, he didn’t feel any focus or purpose. Now, he is getting ready to launch his own business.
Contemplate whether you rely on someone else to go after your dreams. Notice how it feels.
If it is hard to accept responsibility for your own growth all at once, try taking small steps: what is the smallest thing you can achieve on your own?
If you and your partner’s desire to grow and achieve dreams are not yet aligned, give these practices a shot. But don’t forget that if you have an agenda to inspire, it will likely fail. Instead, focus on yourself, be a good listener, accept and see your partner. If you do, you may have miracles just like I did.