People want an amazing relationship. One where you can support each other, communicate effortlessly, and of course have steamy and satisfying sex (yes please to all of the above). Moreover, they want it to be effortless and automatic- fixed if you will. Which is how it should be according to society, romance novels, and many individual’s social media feeds. However, we all know that is not how it works (or if you don’t know yet, now you do). However, even though people know this, they still aren’t reaching their full relationship potential. Why? Because they have a fixed mindset when it comes to their relationship.
If you have not read Carol Dweck’s Mindset, or if you do not know about a fixed mindset vs a growth mindset, it essentially can be explained like this:
Fixed Mindset: Your intelligence, your abilities, and your personality are fixed. Basically, you were born with as much intelligence/ability as you will ever have. It is not developed. If it requires effort, you must not be good at it. Failure means you should give up. Also typically people with this mindset don’t attempt to try things outside of their natural abilities because the idea of failing is paralyzing. Effort is undesirable.
Growth Mindset: Your intelligence, abilities and personality can be developed. If you don’t know something or aren’t good at something, you can put in effort to learn it. Failure is an opportunity for growth. Effort is desirable.
There is a lot of research on this and a lot more to it, but for our purposes this is how we will explain the mindsets. Now traditionally a growth mindset is discussed in regards to intelligence and abilities and typically is taught in the realm of education and business.
However, that is not the only way to apply the growth mindset.
I personally was introduced to this mindset shift during trauma therapy and found the research truly insightful. I had a fixed mindset for most of my life. A lot of it was developed through the traditional education system. The societal pressure to focus on getting everything perfect. The social pressure to make it look like I wasn’t trying too hard. But beyond that, I grew up with an extremely aggressive and intelligent parent who very much has to this day a fixed mindset. I can vividly remember her telling stories about how she got through school with perfect grades without any effort. She very much was a reflection of the society at large. Effort means you aren’t special. Our society loves special. However, this makes the idea of effort seem less than.
This greatly impacted every aspect of my formative years. From relationships, to developing my creativity, and of course it affected my education- taking classes I knew I would get an easy “A” instead of ones where I would have to work for a dreaded “B”. Obviously my mindset became “if it requires effort, then its not for me. Because if it were meant to be, I wouldn’t need effort”.
Thankfully, therapy happened.
When I started working on this mindset shift, one of the first places I wanted to implement it in my life was relationships.
As a heart-centered individual my relationships are the most important part of my life. Specifically, my relationship with my husband, especially in the realms of communication and sex.
As mentioned before I developed a fixed mindset at a young age, including in how I viewed relationships. I heard over and over again from my friends, my mother, tv shows, books, and movies if you are with your true love (also something that needs to be addressed but thats a different topic) things will just click. It will be special. It will be something that is natural…which means not developed. This correlated to the following thoughts: Your partner will know how to communicate with you, and easily understand you. If your are with your true love, sex will be magical with instant passionate connection. Your partner will innately know how to engage you and live out your fantasies.
This pattern of thinking, that everything should be effortless if we are meant to be, caused me great confusion when I was in the best relationship of my life but things still weren’t easy. This was a relationship where I finally felt safe, joyous, and supported. The relationship where I was the happiest I’ve ever been. Yet we fought. Yet in our communication it still felt like he wasn’t getting me (whatever that means). Yet our passionate honeymoon sex phase had become less frequent. So what was up? This wasn’t supposed to happen. It made me doubt our relationship. Was I supposed to let go and move on, did it run its course? Well I wasn’t ready to believe that.
Enter the growth mindset.
When it came to communication, I had to learn that we weren’t perfect communicators and that was okay. It was okay to not be perfect at something automatically. It was okay to put effort in because effort actually is a good thing. Before I started to shift my mindset I remember thinking during arguments, we must not be “meant to be” because he can’t even talk to me. We need to break up because it “shouldn’t” be like this, we “should” know how to talk to each other.
We had pretty awful communication habits and I had a fixed mindset on top of that. This didn’t mean we weren’t in love. We just didn’t know how to communicate with each other, yet. We had to develop our communication. Which we did, when we went to therapy together. We kept working on different tools, active listening and “mirroring”, and even just taking a time out. We put in the effort. As a result, I can truthfully say now, we are effective and pretty awesome communicators. But it didn’t come naturally. It required effort.
Next was my mindset shift towards sex. Literally my favorite topic. I am a romance and erotica novel junkie. And while the books are great at getting me in the mood, they also tend to make you think that magical sex just happens, all the time. These stores show people who are confident and can easily jump into these new sexual fantasies with ease. Least not forget, in the realm of true love and a fixed mindset, good sex should come easily (no pun intended). And while sex can be that way, more times than not, it is not that way. So how do you overcome this when you are truly in love with your partner? Well its actually pretty simple, it requires effort (the magic word). Better yet, it requires you to get excited about effort. This is the biggest gift that the growth mindset gave me, effort is sexy.
When my husband wants to try something new for me or implement something into our sex life that I’ve asked for (even when it is not easy for him) it gets me excited. His effort turns me on. First, the fact that he is trying shows that he loves me (swoon). And second, we are trying something new which is always exciting (double swoon + goosebumps). Does it always work out perfectly right away? Of course not. Is there fumbling and laughter? Absolutely. But with with right mindset you realize this is a chance to develop and grow. And if you aren’t growing in your life (especially your sex life), then really you are missing out on experiencing the full realm of life.
In the beginning of our relationship when I held onto my fixed mindset anything new in the bedroom was uncomfortable because I was scared to try it and be bad at it. Also, if it was awkward did it mean that we aren’t meant to be together? But as my mindset shifted, this of course shifted how I viewed my entire sex life. And I am thankful, because I know my sex life isn’t just great now, but will continue to get better because it can be developed. Also, as an added bonus, it also increases my confidence in myself and my sex life because I am not timid about trying new things.
So, how do you go about changing your mindset?
First, acknowledge. You have to acknowledge your current mindset towards yourself and your relationship. Do you currently look at the issues in your relationship from a growth perspective (i.e. something that can be developed) or from a fixed perspective (i.e. these issues are here to stay because that’s just how it is)? If its a fixed mindset, but you also know that this is a happy and healthy relationship, maybe it’s time to shift your mindset. Enter phase two.
Second, repetition. Practice shifting your mindset every day, especially during arguments or times of doubt about yourself or your relationship. It’s difficult to do when you are angry and upset, but after you have relaxed or had space from the situation, question what mindset you are bringing to the situation. From my experience, journaling is the best tool towards shifting mindsets as it allows you physically watch the change take place. Write how you are feeling and read it. What mindset are you presenting? Also, it does not happen over night. It does not happen over week. It happens over months and years. Keep shifting. You spent most of your life thinking one way and it takes time to change thinking patters.
Third, reflect. As you continue to work on your mindset start to reflect. Not only does it allow you to see how far you come, but it allows you to evaluation yourself and your relationship. Is this mindset shift working for you? Has your relationship improved? Have you been committed to the mindset? At some point there must be a reconciliation. Regardless, as long as you commit to shifting your mind set, you come out ahead. Either with a thriving and fulfilling relationship, or if not that, then at least with the tools to change your life in other ways.
So if you want to reach your full relationship potential, your All-Star potential if you will, have faith that it can developed. Also remember, effort is sexy.
This post was previously published on Hello, Love and is republished here with permission from the author.
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