When you graduated from school or university, did you say to yourself, “Well, that’s it! I now know everything I need to know. My days of learning are over!” Probably not. In fact, you’ve probably continued to learn about new topics, acquire new skills, and seek out random tidbits of information, even if your days of formal education are over. It’s not only fun and fulfilling, but also keeps your mind open and your heart young, among other tangible and intangible benefits.
Interestingly, in long-term relationships, we often get to a certain point and feel as if we know “everything” about our partner. But whether you’ve been together for 3 years or 30+, there’s a good chance that there are still new things to learn about each other – it just might require more digging than it did when you were first getting to know each other.
In the beginning, everything was a new discovery: favourite foods, pet peeves, embarrassing childhood memories, irrational fears. We’d converse for hours about everything and nothing, soaking up information about this new person in your life.
Time passes, and we become familiar with each other’s quirks and see new facets of each other across different situations. Somewhere along the way, the curiosity-driven questions start to wane. We begin to make predictions and assumptions about each other, without even realising it. It is comforting to know each other so well, knowing exactly how the other likes their coffee or whether they’ll feel like being social or staying in on a Friday night after long week. We no longer need to wonder, worry, or stress about each other’s preferences – we’re comfortable
But over time, we also change as individuals, which makes knowing everything about each other somewhat of a moving target. And that’s why we should strive to be lifelong learners about each other!
Here are some tips on how you can be a lifelong learner in your relationship.
Don’t put your partner in a box:
- Let’s say you go out to eat at your favourite Italian restaurant. When the waiter takes your order of seafood ravioli, your partner exclaims, “Really? But you always have the chicken marsala!” Feels a little weird, right? A bit like a shirt that’s too tight across the shoulders—restrictive. There is probably no ill intent behind the comment, but if this keeps recurring, you might be a bit hesitant to venture out of your comfort zone in the future. You could start to feel a subconscious obligation to be the person they’ve always known. But you both need space and positive reinforcement to grow.
- Let your partner surprise you now and then, and respond in a way that says, “That’s not what I expected from you, but I love you for it.”
Lifelong educational learning benefits your mind and well-being in a myriad of ways. Lifelong learning about your partner does the same for your relationship in the form of increased connection and positive growth as individuals and as a couple. It acts as a foil to complacency as it requires continuous communication.
After all, lifelong really is lifelong. The catch to lifelong learning is that the more you already know (whether it’s about car repairs, gardening, or your partner), the more effort you’ll need to put in to learn something new. But in the end, it will only enhance your journey together, and we think you’ll find it’s worth the effort.
Used with permission of PREPARE/ENRICH.
Director PREPARE-ENRICH, Relationship Educator and Mediator
President, Marriage and Relationship Educators Association of Australia
Read on for various resources to assist you at this time. Finally, please let us know how you are going in these challenging times.
For more information on the virus and the steps that can be taken to minimise its impact, visit the Australian Government Department of Health website.
Marriage and Relationship Education is a learning opportunity, much like you would do in any other important life event. Check out the video for couples on YouTube: https://youtu.be/xyuUl-JnIhM.
Tune in next week for more discussion about relationships and mental health.
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