One of the most impactful benefits of being in a relationship is learning how to, well, be in a relationship. From navigating the tug-of-war of compromise to expressing your emotions in a way that matter to your partner, there are all sorts of difficult — but pivotal — things that relationships teach us. And though being a single-something definitely boasts it’s own slew of lessons, there are certain things that only being part of a couple can teach you.
“You have to be in a relationship to define qualities and boundaries that you need in another person. Many times we learn these through experiencing ones that we do not want. They each help us define and narrow down what it is we are looking for in a long term partner,” Psychologist Dr. Nikki Martinez tells Bustle. “When we are single, this may only be hypothetical in nature. When we are experiencing it, we know it for more of a certainty.”
If you’re in a new relationship or one that’s lasted many years, here are some things that you may or may not realize you’re soaking up each and every single day:
1. Effective Communication
By now, you’ve figured out how to talk with that one difficult co-worker who never seems to listen or get their point across. You also know when to call your mom in the morning and what to ask your dad advice about. And with your best friends? Well, you’ve basically squashed all of those awkward, passive-aggressive G-chat miscommunications. But arguably, in a relationship, communication is the glue that keeps everything together. And the only want to learn how to have every type of conversation is to have them with someone you love. “This is a time that you can truly put into practice what it means to have healthy communications skills, and which skills you need to work on for yourself,” Martinez explains.
2. How To Compromise —And How to Stand Your Ground
No matter how much you get along with your partner or how many shared interests and goals you have, you’re not mirror images and you’re not always going to agree. But just like you reach a common ground with your besties when deciding on where you’re going to dinner, you have to make negotiations, and sometimes, sacrifices for your partner and his or her happiness. Martinez explains that being in a relationship helps you discover how to argue, debate, find a compromise but still feel like your voice and needs were heard.
3. Being Brave Enough To Be Vulnerable
When you’re single, it isn’t necessary for your to put your emotions on the line, all the time. But when you’re in a relationship, and especially one where you’re deep in love (or feel like you could get there one day), you have to let your guard down to build the foundation for your shared future together. And part of being open-hearted and vulnerable is accepting that it won’t always be perfect.
“A romantic relationship provides the opportunity to connect in a way with someone that is different than a platonic or familial relationship. Your ‘attachment system’ gets triggered which can set of your fears in a way no other relationship can. This makes you feel vulnerable as you have the opportunity to get hurt,” couples’ therapist Marni Feuerman tells Bustle. “Therefore, you must learn to take risks and trust someone. But, the reality is that our partners will hurt us. Often in small and unintentional ways. That's where you learn forgiveness as well. You have to be able to talk about what hurt you and give your partner the opportunity to make amends. These things occur in a cycle continually and they build the bond necessary to keep the relationship going strong.”
4. How To Actually Be Selfless
While you can definitely learn this with your friendships — and your family — in the romantic sense, learning how to put someone else’s needs and desires ahead of your own is only something you can learn in a relationship. In fact, as Martinez explains, once you’re able to do this, you might find that it’s more satisfying to make your partner happy than to get what you want: “This is a lesson in selflessness, and in letting the happiness of another be your happiness,” she says.
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