The Hidden Power of Expressing Disagreement

Today, it may seem as though most people wait until there’s a political or economic issue to express their opinion.

Do you dare to dislike? Do you express your disagreement? Many of us hold back, but here’s why you should say how you feel!

We see strong opinions expressed to us constantly online (behind the cover a keyboard and sometimes anonymously). But when it comes to our in-person interactions, we may find that we hold back for fear of causing disruption or creating conflict. We know those disagreements and even frustrations are there, but we worry about someone disliking us or disapproving.

Now, what we may or may not realize is that people are continually expressing their opinions. All of us do it, and we regularly hear others express feelings, whether it’s about the weather, sports, or something more personal. We might say what we like or don’t like when it’s a benign topic. But when it gets deeper, we find ourselves holding back.

So, why do we hold back from saying how we really feel? Are we trying to behave in a manner appropriate for the situation? Or are we afraid to express what we know is true?

Why We Hold Back from Expressing our True Feelings

There’s a scene in the movie While You Were Sleeping that reiterates why it’s so important we express our true feelings (even if it means telling others we dislike or disagree with a situation). Sometimes it’s uncomfortable or challenging, but honesty is crucial.

In the film, the father has a hardware business. He’s planned for his son to become his successor and eventually step in and run the family company. The son has been steadily building up his carpentry skills, realizing it’s truly his passion. He walks into breakfast and exchanges a few pleasantries with his dad.

He asks his father how the business is going, and his dad says:

“Life’s a pain in the ass. You work hard, try to provide for the family, and then for one minute, everything is good. Everyone is well. Everyone is happy. In that one minute, you have peace.”

His son replies, “Pop, this isn’t that minute. You remember that rocking chair I made for Grandma? Two months ago, I sold three, just like it. I’ve sold two dining tables, and I’ve got orders for six more.”

His dad says, “Well, that’s a good side business.”

He replies, “Dad, it’s not a side business; it’s good business.”

As realization comes across his dad’s face, he says, “Wait a second, you don’t want my business?!” His son tells him he doesn’t, and he’s felt that way for a long time. The dad exclaims, “Well, why didn’t you say something sooner? I could’ve sold the whole damn thing to Uncle Eddy for twice the value! I could’ve taken your mother on a cruise with Kathie Lee Gifford!”

How many times are we like the son in that movie? We go along with our mouths shut because we’re afraid to speak up when there’s something we dislike or disagree with. We may take on tasks we don’t want to do or eat a meal we didn’t order. We may notice problems at work, but we don’t want to bruise our boss’s ego. We shy away from conflict because we’re scared, only to learn down the road we should’ve spoken up much sooner!

How many times do we imagine whole scenarios before they even happen? We find ourselves having imaginary conversations with our coworkers while we’re commuting or standing in the shower. Maybe we envision how a conversation with our parents or our spouse will go long before it even happens. By the time we actually talk to the person, we’re pissed off, defensive, and ready to fight (and they haven’t even said anything). OR we play it out and decide not to say anything at all, but instead, we silently seethe over an imagined reaction.

Too often, we’re too busy projecting reactions onto people to notice where they really are. We play out scenarios in our head and imagine what-ifs instead of confronting and engaging. These projections cause us not to realize our potential. They hold us back from saying what we like and dislike. They keep us from expressing our disagreement when disagreements can bring us closer together in the truth.

Why Holding Back from Expressing Your Feelings is a Costly Mistake

Holding back often plays out in the board room at a high cost. Workers are so used to placating and acquiescing to the boss’s wishes that they don’t speak up—even when something is really wrong.  We’re afraid of expressing our disagreements, and so we sit there with a smile, saying, “Yes, that’s a great idea,” when we really know it’s terrible.

When we’re afraid to disagree or say what we don’t like, we may find ourselves in an “emperor’s new clothes” scenario. We go around blowing smoke, telling our superiors what a great job they’re doing when problems go unnoticed. Eventually, when the initiative (or even the whole company) fails, the blame is at least partially on us. We saw the train barreling towards us but didn’t say anything.

Honestly and clearly expressing our disagreements is a big deal in companies and a significant component of leadership. Leaders speak up and say what’s not working—even if it will rock the boat. Other people keep their mouths shut until they become so frustrated, they quit and look for other employment. The astounding thing is that people would rather switch companies than say what they don’t like and try to spur change.

If you’re holding back, it may weigh you down. It may also end up costing you and your company big time. Don’t make the mistake of keeping your mouth shut when you should speak up!

Expressing Our Disagreements Helps Us Harness our Personal Power

During our Year of More training, our students engage in exercises to strengthen their personal power. We call these assignments and experiments the “assignment way of living.” One of these exercises is to go out and start expressing their likes and dislikes. As they become more comfortable, we ask them to express their likes with the intention of getting something.

We’ve had students receive a myriad of surprising things only by asking and expressing their feelings. Throughout the assignment, they often realize that they can comfortably become much more honest when they build a rapport with others. They can start asking for what they need. Conversely, they also learn to express what they don’t like. Better still, they can do it without pissing off the other person (most of the time).

Now, expressing dislikes and disagreements can be equally powerful. While people aren’t as accustomed to hearing “what I don’t like is…” both sides (likes and dislikes) work toward setting our intention and helping us get what we want. It’s crucial to express what we don’t want and to let others know when we disagree.

Now, of course, there are times when expressing what we like or don’t like can be inappropriate or hurtful, but those times are rare. Most of the time, when we go into it honestly, with empathy, and emotional awareness, we can express our feelings and still maintain a healthy rapport.

In most situations, speaking the truth and expressing your feelings will move you closer to what you want.

When we honor our truth by expressing our likes and dislikes, we allow others to get closer to us because we’re authentic and living as our genuine selves. We all want to be seen for who we really are, and expressing our dislikes and disagreements bring us into the light.

If we’re holding back because we’re afraid of causing conflict or making someone dislike us, start with small steps. Tell someone an honest opinion (even if we don’t think they’ll agree) and see what happens. Don’t go into the situation defensively or with a guard up. Set the intention for transparency and a commitment to honesty.

It may be surprising how honesty opens up the situation. When we don’t gloss over our feelings or what we know isn’t working in the situation, we come to the point of clarity. Express it! For ways to engage in conflict fairly (in ways that will strengthen the relationship), don’t miss The Heart of the Fight, where we explore the rules of engagement.

When you speak the truth, you begin to recognize the enormous impact you have on the world. The truth always gives us power.

For more ways to discover your personal power, visit the Wright Foundation. We’re excited to announce that many of our courses are available for download on Wright Now. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn more about yourself and ignite your world!


Why “Follow Your Passion” is a Formula for Failure

Do you love your job? Do you wish you loved your job more but don’t? Do you worry that you’re not in your dream job or on your dream career path?

A young man sits on a couch in a corner office working on his laptop. The advice 'follow your passion' is a formula for failure.


Do you love your job? Do you wish you loved your job more but don’t? Do you worry that you’re not in your dream job or on your dream career path?

Most people go through life hearing they should do what they want, follow their passion, and live out their dream. Others may feel like they didn’t follow their ideal path, and it’s led them to a job that’s less-than-exciting. The truth is, “follow your passion” isn’t the best advice for happiness.

It may sound unbelievable at first (especially since the idea to “follow your passion” has been drilled into us—particularly the younger generations—since elementary school). Still, there’s more to life and a career than simply following your bliss.

Here’s why following your passion isn’t the answer to success or career fulfillment.

Does a Job Need to Be Creative to Have Meaning?

We’ve heard for the past thirty years or so, “people need to follow their passion to find happiness and succeed at a job.”

  • Did you always dream of being a rock star? Quit your job as an attorney and join a band.
  • Did you love art as a child? Give up your career as a CEO and take up illustration.
  • Love writing? Why not quit your job as a medical professional to write full-time?

On the surface, the idea of following our passion sounds ideal, doesn’t it? We’d like to believe part of the reason we’re unfulfilled in our current job is it’s not the right “fit” for our creative side. Plus, this notion is reinforced by tales of people who left their careers to become YouTube sensations or who jumped careers to pursue their true passion.

And of course, this sounds tempting…like those who believe a fairytale romance is out there waiting to “complete” them. We all like to think there’s a perfect person; someone out there who will change our life or a job that would make all our problems melt away.

Time and time again, people are looking for a magic answer to satisfaction, and our society is busy selling them this concept that there IS a perfect solution. If we haven’t discovered the ONE, we need to look harder.

Even employers use “what is your passion?” as one of their common interview questions. For some jobs, this question might give a clue to an employee’s aptitude for the new role, but it’s a silly question in most cases. Most potential employees aren’t going to say, “selling insurance.” Or they’ll give simple answers that they think the hiring manager wants to hear. A better question would be, how do you find your passion for the job you’re doing?

John often relates a story about how a brilliant attorney came to him and said, “I hate the law!” As they started discussing why he hated his career, the real truth came out.

John said to him, “Why don’t you tell me how it’s going at your office?”

He said, “Well, a bitchy senior partner is chewing me out on my briefs all the time. Everyone is super uptight. I feel criticized and attacked. I keep thinking growing up; I always wanted to become a poet, a novelist, or a politician. I’m wondering if I went into the wrong field.”

The truth was, he had stopped stretching for the meaning in his work. Yes, he was smart and had secured a great job at a major firm, but because he was smart enough to get by and to carry himself, he’d never had to really stretch or push himself in the career.

So John said, “Do me a favor before you quit your job and go off to write the next Great American Novel. Prepare like crazy for your next meeting. I want you to go all out. Prepare as you’ve never prepared before. Research the topic until you own it. Push yourself.”

Well, low and behold, he returned the next week with a big grin on his face. When John asked him how it went, he said, “You know what? I had a lot of fun! I knew more than everyone else in the meeting, and I ran the entire thing. It was actually really great!”

After a few months of this exciting experiment of applying himself, he ended up excelling so far at his firm that they offered him the position of Chief Information Officer at an even bigger firm. The position developed into him becoming the COO, and he’s now developing a new line of contextual law.

He didn’t end up on the NY Times Best Seller list, but he ended up finding more purpose and satisfaction in his job than he previously believed possible. He discovered a renewed zest for what he was doing.

People don’t realize that to love your job and find satisfaction in your job, you must engage in your career. It’s not merely about getting paid to do something you enjoy, but about fully immersing yourself in the company. It’s about taking ownership of your role in the success of the business. A better idea is finding your passion in the circumstances rather than following an idealized version.

Loving Your Job vs. Following Your Passion

People who love their jobs have worked hard. They’ve gone through barriers. They’ve overcome obstacles, made mistakes, faced setbacks, and forged ahead.

They don’t love a job because they’ve followed their passion and it was easy. They don’t love something because they possess an innate talent or natural aptitude. They love it because they’ve disciplined themselves to become excellent. The meaningfulness of a career comes from the growth people experience as they become excellent…and the learning that comes with striving to become even better.

When people are bored with their job or feel less-than-passionate about their work, it’s often that they’re doing “good enough to earn a living,” but they aren’t striving for excellence. They haven’t decided where they want to go with their job, or they’re chasing a false idea of what happiness looks like.

Happiness isn’t the absence of struggle. Happiness comes from working through—and overcoming—challenges. Our joy and satisfaction in our job stem from our ability to do the job better and better.

Many people’s inner artist says, “I must be creative.” So they look for a creative field that’s straightforward with the opportunity to express themselves. When they don’t break into a creative field (and sometimes even when they do), they’re left disappointed and full of regret and dissatisfaction.

What they don’t understand is life itself is creative. It’s actually harder, more stimulating, and more challenging than drawing or creating something. If you want to be the artist of your life, you have work to do. Nothing that comes automatically will ultimately feel satisfying.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with creative expression. There’s nothing wrong with people becoming an artist, or a musician, or a writer. It’s not that people shouldn’t pursue a creative career. Creative careers can be wonderful. But even the most extraordinary artist will only feel satisfied and fulfilled if they’re continuously striving and working toward the next goal. If someone wants to be an artist, they should push to be at the top of their field. Don’t only create what comes naturally, create what comes unnaturally. Choose the path with the most challenges.

Most people want to feel fulfilled, but they don’t want their job to feel challenging. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how we frame it), the key to fulfillment is overcoming obstacles.

Finding the FLOW

A job is part of a larger picture. If someone isn’t providing value to others, then it’s pretty hard to earn a living. There’s real meaning in our role in the fabric of society. Look at the jobs we may write off—street-cleaning, trash collecting, or janitorial services, for example. Without these extremely valuable services, our entire society would fall apart. Every job has a purpose and plays a part in the larger world. To think a job only has value because it’s the worker’s passion or true calling…well, that’s not how the game works. To find more fulfillment at work, we have to dedicate ourselves to the purpose and meaning in the job.

Hungarian Philosopher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi discussed the concept of flow and job satisfaction in his TED talk. After witnessing WWII as a child, he became curious about the idea of satisfaction and happiness. What was it that brought people joy, even in dire circumstances or poverty?

Csikszentmihalyi found that most people don’t have a greater sense of purpose in their work because they don’t have meaning and purpose in their everyday lives.

Happiness doesn’t come from money, it doesn’t come from self-expression, following our passion, and it doesn’t even come from doing what we enjoy. We derive our happiness from a sense of “flow.” Flow is the feeling we get when we’re challenged. When we’re turned on, engaged, and working toward a goal. Regardless of their job or life circumstances, the happiest people found meaning in what they were doing.

Just Because a Task is Easy Doesn’t Mean It’s Worth It

People think things should be easy, and that includes jobs. But work is WORK. Worthwhile pursuits require us to stretch and engage. It’s part of embracing a growth mindset.

Our gut tells us we should look for something easy, but easy jobs are never as satisfying as challenging ones. We can address what’s in front of us and what life throws our way and use these opportunities to learn and grow. When we do this, new opportunities continue to open up in front of us. People miss what it means to complete a task. They want to break out or escape. If they aren’t winning, they want to walk away.

When we feel like we’re ready to throw in the towel, we should challenge ourselves to become MORE engaged with our work. Go to our boss and say, “What should I do to learn and grow? What else in my job can I master?” If the boss doesn’t have an answer, then it may be time to BECOME the boss (or move somewhere else). But most bosses will offer plenty of ideas and areas to work on.

People look to get into the “right” career, but they don’t look into how they can become the “right” person for the job. Talk to any employer, and they’ll say employees who initiate and step into responsibility are critically hard to find.

Now, most of us reading this may not be the most desirable employee on the planet either. There are times when we all phone it in or slack off. Even if we think we’re giving 110%, what would the boss say? Would they feel that way if they were standing over our shoulder? There’s almost always something we can do to become better.

It all comes back to the fact that people who find the purpose, meaning, and challenge in what they’re doing are the happiest, most satisfied people—and the best employees.

We had a 15,000 piece mailing we were putting out. We hired a young man who was doing odd jobs in the community and two temps from an agency. The two temps thought the work of stuffing envelopes was tedious. They put on music and spent the day complaining.

On the other hand, the young man who had been doing odd jobs simply got to work. He made a game of it. He challenged himself to see how many he could do, how quickly he could get it done, and how he could make the job interesting. He ended up getting more accomplished than both of the temps combined, and he enjoyed it. Today he’s a respected entrepreneur in Milwaukee!

If you’re trying to figure out your passion or how to pursue your passion in life, reframe. Start to push yourself to do the best at whatever you’re doing, and your passion will find you. Love your life and create experiences for yourself and others. No matter what pursuit you’re on. Live as an artistic creator of a creative human being (yourself) who takes responsibility for your life.

For more on finding your passion for success, please join us for a webinar on WrightNow. We offer many courses and interactive webinars to help you get MORE out of your career and life. Don’t miss this exciting opportunity to find MORE satisfaction and happiness.


Go Beyond Flirting: How to Communicate Your Way to True Intimacy

When you want to connect with someone, do you share honestly, or do you FLIRT?

Here's how to turn flirting into true intimacy.


In the movies, we see flirting as a lot of eyelash batting, sultry glances, and witty banter back and forth. Sometimes it’s cute; sometimes it’s edgy, but rarely is it straightforward.

By its very nature, flirting is attempting to “charm” someone into bed (or at least on a date), right? It’s coy and demure, while making your interest known. It’s a way of putting yourself out there but still playing it safe, but it’s no way to reach true intimacy.

If we want true intimacy in a relationship or a potential relationship, we have to start with honesty and authenticity—not just flirting.

Are You Honest with Your Date?

When we hope to connect with someone, whether it’s a new date or building a deeper connection with our boyfriend or girlfriend, how honest should we be? We often want to present our ideal self to our potential love interest and put our “best foot forward,” right?

So what do we do? We create a dating profile online curating only the best photos. We flirt by showing a side of our personality that’s easy-going and “cool.” When we meet with a potential date, we mimic their interests because we want to be appealing and their perfect match. When we go out, we don’t order what we really want at the restaurant. We keep our opinions quiet. We may stick with neutral topics and giggle at all our date’s jokes (no matter how lame).

Before the date, we probably picked out the perfect outfit. Maybe we consulted with pals on what to say or do. When we’re really interested, we lay on the flirting extra thick to lure them in.

Flirting, as fun as it is, is unproductive at best and deceptive at least. Yes, a friendly online meeting can get the conversation started and help us assess the playing field, but don’t hide behind an idealized dating profile or a persona for dates.

Putting it all out there or walking up to someone and expressing our sincere interest might feel frightening, but it’s also a much quicker means to an end. Telling someone openly and honestly that we’re interested and genuinely intrigued at the prospect of getting to know them will create intimacy much faster than arm touching and eyelash batting.

Hook-Up Culture vs. True Intimacy

Now, in this day and age of swiping left and right, hopping into bed with someone based on looks and superficial circumstances has become commonplace. People are intimate in the sexual sense of the word, but it’s not connecting them. They aren’t getting the true intimacy out of their relationships.

What’s disturbing about today’s hook-up culture is it doesn’t allow for true intimacy. People are patting themselves on the back for being so open, yet they’re closed off in reality. They’re rebelling against their upbringing, society and they’re fearful of truly putting themselves out there. It’s vulnerable and scary to be oneself on a date or to honestly share feelings, yearnings, and dreams with someone else. But if we hold back, we won’t reach the authenticity we need for a deep connection.

True intimacy in a relationship comes not from flirting, or even sex, but communication.

We can be emotionally intimate with friends, with parents and family, but most importantly, with a partner. Emotional intimacy often feels more frightening than physical intimacy because we’re letting someone see who we truly are.

Not everyone is ready for intimacy. Some of us are still at the beginning part of our exploration and journey to discovery. We may not be prepared to date yet, and frankly, that’s okay. We don’t need to engage in a sexual relationship with people to keep them interested or put ourselves “out there.” It’s perfectly fine and encouraged to let people know we’re doing personal growth work and simply seeking new friends right now.

If we aren’t sure how to express ourselves to others or be our best, authentic selves, work on those assignments first. Explore all that untapped potential so that we can confidently share our real selves with a partner when we’re ready.

Conversation, communication, and sharing are where real intimacy is born. When we tell someone our innermost thoughts and feelings, it’s much more honest and vulnerable than flinging off our clothes and jumping into bed together. It takes real courage to tell someone how we feel and discuss what we really want.

We each owe it to ourselves to be honest, and demand what we want and need from a healthy relationship, rather than settling for a mediocre situation. Contorting our personalities and needs to match what we perceive as the desires of the person we’re dating doesn’t work. We should be who we truly are.

Honesty Breeds Healthy Conflict: And That’s Okay!

Now, when we consider how to be honest on a date, we might get a little worried. What if expressing ourselves honestly means saying something the other person doesn’t want to hear? What if we offend them or they get upset? What if we even argue?

When we’re honest, conflict will come up—probably often—and guess what? It’s okay! It’s even healthy!

Often people tiptoe around on dates (particularly women, but men do it too), trying to be “polite” and to put out a vibe they’re easy-going. We don’t want to seem high maintenance, so we might see a movie we really have no interest in watching, we might bite our tongues when a date selects a restaurant (or worse, orders FOR us). We might not order what we want to eat at the restaurant because we’re worried our date will judge us for eating too much or for munching on something awkwardly.

The sooner we let those pre-date pretenses go, the better! We can take the challenge to start going for what we want. We can be who we REALLY are!

Look at it this way, if we charm someone into falling for us, what have they really fallen for? Are they really into us, or our most charming false self? We may pretend to have so much in common, but at heart, commonalities aren’t what makes a relationship great. Instead of compatibility and commonality, we should be aiming for honesty and authenticity.

There’s a long-standing misconception about compatibility in relationships, mainly that it matters. The compatibility misconception—that having a lot in common is a sign that we’re “meant” to be together—is a variation on the soulmate misconception.

A quick look at dating sites reveals that most singles are advertising for people who share the same interests, who like the same things, and share commonalities, thinking that these enhance compatibility and likely will reveal or help them find “the one.”

The truth? According to several respected marriage researchers, common interests are overrated, and over-focusing on compatibility can be a sign of trouble when aiming for true intimacy in a relationship. Happy couples are no more or less compatible than unhappy couples. But if one spouse or the other starts to complain, saying, “We’re not compatible,” or expressing how vital compatibility is, what he or she is really saying is, “We’re not getting along.” Compatibility is transient; it comes and goes, and no couple is compatible all the time.

Good relationships aren’t about being compatible. Couples in blissful relationships work with their differences—and grow from them. What is more important is that they share deeper values, meaning, purpose, and a dedication to growing. What matters are common values, not common interests.
The Heart of the Fight

We explore this and many other misconceptions about relationships in our book, The Heart of the Fight. Even as early on as your first date, we set the precedence for setting up honesty and truth no matter where our path leads (friendship, another date, or a potential relationship). There’s no time that’s too soon for honesty.

Truth Will Build a Deeper Connection in the Long Run

Instead of conforming to a date’s whims, we should be honest about what we want and what we expect. That means, if we don’t like the restaurant, say so! If our order is wrong, speak up! If a date expresses an opinion we disagree with, let them know. It’s not mean or impolite to express our honest, real feelings.

We all owe it to ourselves to be honest in our interactions. If we want to build true intimacy, whether we’re dating or in a relationship, we must be truthful in all dealings. Honesty means sharing those deep-seated beliefs and yearnings of our hearts. It means expressing our emotions, and it means expecting the same from our partner.

If we’re operating from a place of honesty, there will be conflict, but there will also be a resolution. Eventually, as the relationship goes on, trust will continue to grow as well.

Emerging relationship research proves that couples who have truthful, angry fights early in their relationship are happier over time. Social psychology researcher James McNulty has found that the “short-term discomfort of an angry but honest conversation” is beneficial to relationships in the long run.

What we often discover is that relationships are more robust than we think. They can withstand the fireballs of argument; more to the point, these heated exchanges can catalyze insight and understanding that foster relationship growth.

Other studies show that conflict early in the relationship helps couples weed out problems that can damage the relationship in the long run. John Gottman’s (1994) research indicates that the “temporary misery” of early conflict is healthier for couples in the longer term. Interestingly, in the early years of relationships, peaceful couples report that they are happier than bickering couples. When revisited three years later, the peaceful couples are far more likely to be divorced or on their way to breaking up. The couples who worked out their issues are more likely to be in stable relationships.

If you’re holding back or attempting to flirt your way into a relationship, stop! Instead, communicate your way into getting to know each other. Don’t hold back. Follow the instinct to be yourself. Authenticity, it turns out, is one of the most charming qualities out there. Have fun! Explore, connect, and engage. Be yourself!

For more on how to navigate the waters of relationships and dating, don’t miss our book The Heart of the Fight: A Couple’s Guide to Fifteen Common Fights, What They Really Mean, and How They Can Bring You Closer. We’ll explore some of the most common conflicts that we all face in the relationship world and how we can use these conflicts to build true intimacy in any relationship.

Is Your Relationship Stuck? Here’s How to Break Out of the Boredom

Maybe you feel like everything is going along “fine” in your relationship? Perhaps you’re feeling comfortable and safe in a long-term connection…but are you really just stuck?

Is your relationship stuck? This couple is stuck in boredom, not intimacy.


Maybe you’re wondering how to move forward in a relationship. How does your partner feel?

If you feel stuck in a relationship, it’s time to face the truth: If one of you feels stuck, you’re BOTH stuck.

But the good news is, just because you feel stuck in a relationship doesn’t mean that it’s doomed. It means you may be looking to your relationship for fulfillment when REALLY you should be taking a look inward. Happiness isn’t dependent on being in (or out) of a relationship. Each person is responsible for his or her own happiness.

How to Know if You’re Stuck in a Relationship

Are you wondering if your relationship is stuck in a rut? Well, ask yourself:

  • Is it exciting?
  • Is it engaging?
  • Are you growing?

If you answer no to any of these questions, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work on ways to move forward in your relationship. Relationship boredom can cause us to seek novelty elsewhere. Many times, it’s not because the relationship is irrevocably broken or damaged, but it’s because we need to work on finding novelty and fulfillment within our own lives. We get bored because we feel we aren’t personally growing. Rather than doing the internal work, we shift the blame to our partner.

Have you ever thought, “He doesn’t make me happy,” or, “I wish she could make me feel better?” If we’re looking for someone else to bring us satisfaction, we’re setting ourselves and our partner up for disappointment. When it doesn’t happen, we feel stuck in a relationship or wonder where we’re going.

It makes sense that we’ve adopted this idea of fairy tale romance, considering that we so often see it portrayed in romantic movies, books, TV, and more. The idea of finding someone who “completes us” or who exists to make us happy is appealing, but of course, it’s also false. Happy relationships take work on both sides independently. No one else is responsible for our happiness.

Whether you’ve been in a relationship for a few months or married for 30+ years, you still need to focus on finding a constant state of growth—within the relationship and beyond. As humans, we’re continually evolving, learning, and changing. We’re seeking new stimuli and new experiences. It’s those new insights and happenings that help us discover more about ourselves and strengthen our connection with our partner.

Are You Learning and Growing Together and Separately?

We often start dating someone because we have a lot in common—typically, that means we like the same activities, live in the same area, and go to the same spots. But how important are those commonalities? Do we really need to enjoy the same activities as our significant other?

Common interests are well and good, but they don’t form the core of your relationship. We all enjoy doing things with our spouse or partner that we both find mutually entertaining and fun. Conversely, if we don’t feel excited about the same interests or share the same tastes, that doesn’t mean a relationship is doomed or can’t work.

Life is busy and complicated, but the capacity to learn and grow is always within our ability. With that comes our capacity to love and engage in a fulfilling relationship.

Cheering for the same sports team or enjoying the same music may seem like a common bond, but a strong connection runs deeper than that. We can enjoy completely different hobbies, a different type of job, and different friends and still share a deep connection. Conversely, we can enjoy all the same activities and still feel like strangers.

Relationships should be nurturing—a womb—safe place to grow and find sustenance for your soul. They can be a refuge and a place to help us. At the same time, our relationships should be a crucible—a place to shape and mold us into what we can potentially become. These two sides are not mutually exclusive but rather working in tandem.

That growth comes from learning, sharing, and working on goals together. When you talk to your partner, do you share your hopes and dreams? Do you tell them about the plans you’re working toward in the future? Or do you find yourself discussing the logistics of the day? If your conversations stay in the shallow end of the pool, then it’s time to dive in.

You may even want to approach time with your partner with an agenda! Now, that may sound like the opposite of exciting, but when you go into time together with an intention to share and connect, you’ll find even stronger engagement. Having an agenda helps you set that intention and maximize your engagement, especially if the two of you are busy and those precious moments together go by quickly.

Consider working on a personal goal together by holding each other accountable. If you want to learn something new, be more outgoing, or explore a new interest, set a goal together. You don’t need to complete each step of the activity with each other, but reporting and sharing your experience can help you discover more profound insights and form a more robust partnership because you’re working on a new “assignment” TOGETHER.

Is growing and changing always easy? No, but you should always be in a place of transition and transformation, rather than somewhere you feel “stuck.” If you’re still feeling stuck, it’s time to get to the real underlying issues within yourself.

Don’t Shy Away from Conflict

If we’re feeling bored in a relationship, it may also be an indication that we’ve stopped rocking the boat. If you’re avoiding arguments with your spouse by silently stewing alone—don’t! It’s time to start battling towards bliss!

Many of us were raised to avoid conflict. Avoidance leads to stunted emotions, withholding, and resentment. If you’ve ever given your significant other the silent treatment or felt irritated as you did something for them, you’ve experienced the dangers of staying silent. After time, passive-aggressive actions and reactions start to erode trust in the relationship. We’re constantly frustrated but refusing to express that frustration and get it out in the open.

We need to allow ourselves to feel the whole range of human emotions and express those emotions. Arguing is perfectly okay, as long as it is with intention. Believe it or not–arguing can actually strengthen a relationship. When we argue, we express truth and authenticity. We’re telling someone how we really feel, and that expression is key to building a stronger connection.

Now there are ways we can fight FOR the relationship rather than fighting against our partner. In the book The Heart of the Fight, we explore many common fights and how to set up basic rules of engagement. It’s not about avoiding the conflicts or smoothing things over, but about opening up to each other and finding even more intimacy during our arguments.

Passion is a state of being alive—being emotional and feeling. Sometimes opening up that conflict and expressing those feelings can help us engage more deeply and feel even more passionately about our partner than we did before.

We have different wants and different needs, and those differences lead to conflict. It’s just a fact that all humans face—but a couple that is growing together uses that conflict to connect, understand, and find common ground.

Look at your emotional core and the work you need to do. We often reach to our partners for our own happiness and validation, which can lead to blame and resentment. Take a long hard look at your historical patterns in your relationships and make sure you aren’t falling into common traps like codependency or emotional withdrawal. Try to understand your role in the conflict and how you are reacting to your partner.

Often when one partner is experiencing strong conflict and an emotional reaction, it can stem from our history, our relationships with our parents, siblings, and past interactions we’ve had with others. If you’re feeling that your relationship is fraught with arguments or continuously leaving you feeling frustrated, then you may have some serious reflection and work to do on your own.

The Need for Attention

We all need attention, and our partners do, too. Sometimes the way we acknowledge our partner, their feelings, accomplishments, and disappointments, might not be the way they’re hoping for. Sometimes they may not acknowledge us in the way that we desire either.

Expressing your needs to your partner and engaging in a dynamic relationship is part of the process. The other part is taking personal responsibility for our OWN happiness and our own need for attention. Realizing we have to manage our internal conflicts first is an important step.

Quality communication—talking, touching, supporting, listening, and relating—are at the basis of a strong relationship. We need to examine the ways our partner fills our needs and the way we fill our partner’s needs. Relationships need to nourish us and help us grow and evolve. As you work with your partner and work within your relationship, you may find that those “stuck” feelings quickly dissolve as you both start to evolve.

When we feel boredom or dissatisfaction, it can indicate we need to explore ways to bring MORE learning, more experience, and more purpose to our own lives. We can set these goals for more personal discovery, regardless of our relationship status. Working on ourselves can happen on our own or with a partner, but it’s the counterfoil to our feelings of restlessness.

If you’re looking for deeper, more meaningful relationships, order The Heart of The Fight. We’ll explore how you can get yourself back on track to move forward in a relationship toward the life you both want.