A common sentiment about what one wants in a romantic relationship is that they want their partner to make them a better person. They want to be challenged and supported, and in some way asked to step up and be the best version of themselves that they can be.
I’ve always wanted this in my life, but “a better person” is a fairly vague phrase. It’s only recently that I’ve started to concretely see what this means simply by having someone who does it for me (not like that you perverts). The typical image of this is that your partner pushes you. They hear your hopes and dreams and they tell you to pursue them. They take care of you when you’re having a bad day and keep you positive when you’re down.
This is not what I mean when I say that I want my partner to make me a better person.
Until a couple of months ago I hadn’t written anything creative for years. I’d been fairly focused on blogs and essays, and hadn’t made time for short stories or longer fiction. Oddly, for most of my life previous to that I had always written creatively. From the time I was ten, I wanted to be an author and write fantasy novels. The drive to create is deeply important to me, and somewhere along the line I had forgotten that excitement and joy.
Until I met my current partner, who without knowing or intending, got me writing again simply by being excited about his own projects and interests. When I first met him, he started telling me about an audio theater project he was working on, and within a week I was writing again, inspired by his ideas. I become a better person when I’m around others who are engaged and excited about life, because they remind me of the things that I love and want to do with my life. I’m happier when I’m with others who are doing what they love and when their loves remind me of mine.
For most of my life I haven’t been the best at communicating. I try to tell people what I’m thinking or feeling, but I second guess myself a lot and I’m a people pleaser, so I end up doing what I think other people want. My current partner doesn’t demand that I communicate with him or ask me to tell him what’s going on in my head when it seems like things are happening in there. He just communicates with me, and lets me know what he wants and needs. He clearly prioritizes a variety of relationships, not just ours, and lets me know that he cares about that. He models being a healthy human being.
And every time I see him communicating clearly or letting me know that he needs to spend time with his friends or doing something else that is emotionally healthy, I become more likely to do it myself. When I say that I want my partner to make me a better person, what I mean is that I want to surround myself with amazing people who remind me what it looks like to be awesome in all the ways that I want to be awesome. Of course I also want them to support me and challenge my ideas and talk to me about interesting things, but you don’t make your partner better by telling them what to do or simply saying words to them: you do it by being better yourself and challenging them to step up to your awesomeness.
And while some people love having a partner that exposes them to new things and gets them out of their comfort zone (and to some extent this is healthy for everyone), it’s also wonderful to have someone who reminds you of the things you love and why you love them. They make you more yourself by reminding you of those essential parts of yourself that you can’t live without: your loves and passions.
When I’m engaged creatively with the world, I’m simply a happier, more functional person, and it took my partner being his creative self to remind me of that. In all my relationships, I want people who remind me who I am in essential, lasting ways. This is what it means to me to make your partner better.