NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Learning About Yourself in a Relationship

Although there are many ways to learn about yourself, including keeping a journal, talking to friends and family members, and going to therapy, being in a relationship can be very revealing (see my article:  Growing As An Individual While You're in a Relationship).

Learning About Yourself in a Relationship

Many people think they have to work out all their issues before they can be in a relationship, but there will always be issues and by waiting you could be missing out on a potentially good relationship. 

Being emotionally vulnerable is one of the keys to a successful relationship.  Although this can be difficult for some people because of their history of being hurt in their family of origin or in previous relationships, learning to be emotionally vulnerable helps you to discover who you are and enhances your relationship (see my article: Emotional Vulnerability as a Pathway to Greater Intimacy).

What You Can Learn About Yourself When You're in a Relationship
Here are some of the key things you can learn about yourself when you're in a relationship:
  • Your Communication Skills:  How well do you communicate with loved ones? Are you open to expressing your feelings or do you tend to withdraw and bottle things up?  When you're in a relationship, there are many opportunities to talk about your feelings--both positive and so-called "negative" feelings.  Even if you enter a relationship lacking good communication skills, constructive feedback from your partner can go a long way to helping you to improve this skill.
  • Your Coping Skills: Every life has its inevitable ups and downs.  Most people can handle things when life is going well, but how well you handle challenges, including problems in your relationship, reveal a lot about your coping skills.  Whether you avoid problems or deal with them as they come up reveals your particular style of handling problems. Becoming aware of your coping skills and having self compassion is the first step towards changing them (see my article: Developing a Compassionate Attitude Towards Your Maladaptive Coping Skills).
  • Your Love Language: According to Dr. Gary Chapman, who wrote The 5 Love Languages, there are five different ways of expressing and receiving love in a relationship (and some relationship experts believe there are more than five ways):  words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch.  You can learn a lot about yourself and your partner in terms of each of your love languages. When you get to know your partner, you also learn to relate to them in terms of their love language (as opposed to relating to them based on your love language).  In reality, everyone has more than one love language, but there is often one that predominates.  Here are the love languages as outlined by Dr. Chapman in his book:
    • Words of Affirmation: People with this love language value verbal acknowledgements of affection (saying "I love you" frequently, compliments and words of appreciation, encouragement).
    • Quality Time: People with this love language feel loved when their partner wants to spend time with them.  This includes active listening, eye contact and being fully present.
    • Acts of Service: People with this love language as primary like it when their partner goes out of their way to make their life easier.  In other words, actions speak louder than words.  
    • Gifts: Visual symbols of love are what is most important with people who value gifts as their primary love language.  They like to know that their partner spent the time to think about getting them meaningful gifts.  The key is the meaningfulness of the gift.
    • Physical Touch: This includes physical signs of affection, including kissing, holding hands, cuddling and having sex.  Physical intimacy is very powerful for people with physical touch as their primary love language.  They value the warmth and comfort that comes with physical touch.
  • Your Values and Priorities: What do you value most in your life? What are your goals? How important are your familial relationships, friendships and your partner?  Even if you don't usually think a lot about your values and priorities, you can learn a lot about them in a relationship in terms of how you prioritize your partner and whether your partner's values and priorities are similar to yours.  
  • Your Strengths: Ideally, your partner and you bring out the best in each other and, if not, this is an important area to work on.  You might have strengths you're unaware of--until you see yourself in a relationship and become aware of them.  You might also realize that you and your partner complement each other (or not).
  • Your Shortcomings: You might be aware that, just like everyone else, you have certain shortcomings, but when you're in a relationship, these shortcomings become glaringly clear.  Although many people feel uncomfortable acknowledging their shortcomings, when you're in a relationship, you have an opportunity to improve them.  It helps if, to start, you have self compassion because it makes it easier to change (Self Compassion: Loving Yourself Even in the Places Where You Feel Broken).
Being in a relationship, especially after the "honeymoon phase," can be challenging, but if you're in a healthy relationship, the emotional rewards, including the opportunity for self discovery, outweigh the difficulties (see my articles: How Do You Know If You're in an Unhealthy Relationship? and Developing and Maintaining a Happy Relationship).

Getting Help in Therapy
If you've been struggling on your own, you're not alone.  Help is available to you.  

Taking the first step, which is contacting a licensed psychotherapist, is often the hardest one, but a skilled therapist can help you to overcome the obstacles to leading a more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist,  hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during regular business hours or email me.