How Your Self-Improvement Goals Could Affect Your Relationship


You’ve decided to make a change – maybe it’s taking off a few inches from your waistline, engaging more enthusiastically in the life you have, setting out on some new adventure in pursuing your interests, or some other long dreamed of improvement. Whatever change you want to make, it will surely impact other aspects of your life – including your relationship.

Changing means facing parts of yourself that you don’t like. This takes motivation, courage, and inner strength. In the end, you will be different in more ways than just the goal you set. Lose weight and you may feel more confident. Take a class in art history and your conversations may change, along with spending more time in museums. These changes will undoubtedly have an effect on your partner, and on your relationship.

Of course, some changes will have more profound effects than others. These differences depend on how much the “new you” affects the way you and your partner relate to each other. For instance, pursuing an interest in traveling might result in a wonderful hobby that you and your partner enjoy together, strengthening your bond. Or, if your partner is more of the home-body sort, it might place a strain on your relationship as you go off on new adventures.

To address how the changes you’re making are affecting your relationship, consider these questions:

What do you want and need from your relationship? Think about how the change in you might alter what you want from your relationship. This might mean wanting support in a new venture, sharing certain experiences together, or simply recognition for your accomplishment.

How has the change in you affected your partner? Your partner might be happy for you or proud your efforts. They might be motivated to share your interest or engage more with their own. For instance, your commitment to exercising might prompt your partner to join you. However, your partner might not be entirely comfortable with your changes. Losing weight might result in more attention from others, prompting insecurity or jealousy. You can observe these reactions on your own, as well as talk openly with your partner about them.

Should you work to bridge the gap or move on? If distance or tension does arise in your relationship, it is important to address it. Consider whether your partner is willing to change, accommodating your growth. If the two of you cannot find a way to grow together, then the question arises about how significantly you are growing apart. Is there enough of your old self for the two of you to still fully enjoy your relationship? Or, are the differences between you so great that it’s time to consider going separate ways?

As you move through this process, keep in mind that change is hard for relationships, just as it is for individuals. So, give your partner and your relationship time to adjust. If your growth ultimately means that it is time to shed the old relationship, this also means that it is time to enter a one that will be a better fit for the “new you.”

by Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD