Growing is part of life. Physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, spiritually, you name it – we grow in so many ways throughout our lives. The thing about growing, though, is that there isn’t a shortcut. We usually can’t skip over the hard, uncomfortable, or awkward parts even though we’d sometimes like to (middle school flashbacks – yikes). Even though it might not seem like it at the time, those stages are valuable. We learn a lot from them, often gaining experience and insight that helps us down the road. Through this, we also gain the confidence to stretch the boundaries of our current state, growing as we tackle the next step.

It’s not entirely surprising then, that our confidence and motivation can take a hit when our “next step” is too big.  Sometimes we go for it and fall, and we say, “Okay, not trying that again anytime soon!” Sometimes we just can’t even fathom how we’ll make it, so we don’t even try. 

Have you ever experienced this? How about in your relationship?

We often talk about the importance of ongoing growth in our relationship, but what does that look like? Is it big, sweeping changes for the better? Maybe. But more often it’s probably incremental. Two steps forward, three steps sideways, one step back. And that’s okay! Just as in other areas of our life, progress can come in baby steps. Sometimes our next step isn’t necessarily a big one, but it’s one that will give us the footing we need to make it to the next one, and the one after that.

In your relationship, what feels like a baby step towards growth? Here are some simple suggestions, depending on where you’re at now.

Feel like two ships passing in the night? —> Create a simple goodbye/hello ritual – a kiss, a hug, a meaningful smile. A brief moment of connection can help you let each other know you’re still in it together, even when life is pulling you in all kinds of directions.

Struggling to prioritize intentional time together? —> Set a goal of devoting just 10 minutes a day to giving each other your full attention. Maybe it’s after the kids are in bed or right after you climb into your own bed. Try to eliminate any distractions and just enjoy ten minutes of uninterrupted time together – cuddling, sharing about your day, or having silly pillow talk.

Already doing daily intentional check ins? —> Schedule a standing date. Date night, day date, lunch date, even if it’s just an hour long. Start out with once a month, then increase the frequency or work your way up to a cadence that works for you.

Got the date thing down? —> Take date conversations to the next level by trying something like the Discussion Guide for Couples. (Bonus tip: this guide also works great for daily check ins!) 

Great conversations part of your repertoire? —> Take a relationship assessment. Find a Facilitator and get an in depth look at your strength and growth areas with the Prepare/Enrich assessment. Or go the “DIY” route with Couple Checkup. You’ll likely have some new things to talk about.

Completed an assessment recently? —> Team up with other couples to create a supportive culture in your neighborhood or broader community. Join a small group for couples at your church or talk to your pastor about starting one.

As you can see, these aren’t huge, groundbreaking ideas. They’re small, simple shifts that might be just the stepping stone you and your partner need to grow. Sometimes you might go backwards. Sometimes you might feel ready for a bigger stretch. Wherever you’re at, it’s all part of the continuous journey of growth.

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