If you’ve been doing a ton of work on yourself by changing routines and bad habits or taking courses about self-improvement and your partner isn’t supportive or excited about growing with you, this post is for you.
In 1994, when I first met my husband Chris, he was participating in a three-day seminar about personal development. I was completely weirded out and thought to myself, “I’ve met the man of my dreams and he’s in a cult.”
I was really confronted by what I might learn about myself if I took the same course he was in because I wasn’t complete about how I treated former relationships and I was scared that something might change between him if I started to get to work on my own personal development.
I was scared about what I might find out about myself if I went on this journey.
Instead of Chris giving me a guilt trip about doing the seminar he would just share what he was learning.
Not until some time later, when I noticed a real shift in Chris and my curiosity grew, did I start to wade into the personal development waters myself.
So what do you do if your partner is not on board with your growth and refuses to work on their own?
This is what I’ve learned from my own experience that can make a difference for you, too.
Bonus: these tips aren’t just for romantic partners. They also apply to friends, family members, and co-workers who don’t understand your personal development journey.
#1. Don’t try and change your partner.
First things first, you have to understand you can’t pressure them, give ultimatums, or give them so much shit that they all of a sudden start on their own personal development path.
It’s not going to happen.
If you feel your partner would do well if they cut out the booze or hit the gym or stopped smoking, you’re probably right.
But telling them to do those things or pointing out where they’re making mistakes will 100% backfire.
Nobody likes to be told what to do, so don’t even go there. You cannot change anyone else.
#2. Lead by example.
You shouldn’t nag your partner. But what you CAN do is influence whether or not they truly want to.
The keyword in personal development is PERSONAL. It’s about you.
When the person you love isn’t supportive about your growth, you continue to do you.
Continue journaling, continue reading, and continue going to the gym…and then, you’re going to share with them the things you’re learning.
By opening yourself up this way they’ll begin to see why they should consider diving into personal development in their own way, without you telling them to.
While you can’t change people, you can often influence them. Be your best version of yourself and not only will you inspire those around you, you will continue to feel supported and uplifted during your own growth.
#3. Share what you’re learning.
Invite your partner into your world in bits and pieces.
Share the tools you’re learning and show how they make a difference for you.
Introduce the people in your growth community, leave your books hanging around, share what scares you and things on your bucket list.
The more your partner understands what you’re doing, the less intimidated they may be.
#4. Be a cheerleader.
Without being obvious or inauthentic, begin to really cheer for your partner.
Not for making changes (though you can cheer for that, too) but for all the reasons you fell in love with this person in the first place.
Leave love notes around your home, plan regular date nights, and create new routines together.
Once your partner truly gets that you’re excited with them just as they are, they may be willing to take steps to move out their own comfort zone.
#5. Step into their shoes.
It’s easy to judge someone else for not being on the same path as you or condemn their actions.
But acting superior/morally righteous to your partner–because you’re on the path of growth–will drive a wedge between you two faster than almost anything else.
If you’re feeling annoyed, angry, or frustrated with your partner over their (lack of) growth, first put yourself into their shoes.
Empathy is the ONLY thing that will slam the breaks on the judgment train.
Put yourself in their world.
Ask yourself what they might be dealing with or feeling. Even though it may appear RIDICULOUS to you (and by the way, it seems ridiculous to you because you are being judgy) but allow yourself to consider that it’s VERY REAL to them. Step into their shoes, their pain, their frustrations, their world …. for just a second. For some people, they are just not ready to go under the surface and see what’s there.
And by the way–it is possible to step into someone’s shoes and understand where they are and still not agree with what they are doing. That’s totally a thing.
It’s the difference between having an “explanation” for why someone is acting like an ass versus “justifying” their actions.
When you can explain why someone does something, you know the secret to empathy.
And all that judgment, frustration, and anger will disappear when you understand why someone might be doing or saying what they do.
I know these five steps are often easier said than done–and it’s hard to resist the urge to judge and try and change someone–but if you follow them, I guarantee you will reach a new level of understanding in your relationship.
Want to hear even more? Check out this video on the same topic: