Building Healthy Relationships Depends on a Growth Mindset

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "Mindset" by Carol Dweck. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.

Like this article? Sign up for a free trial here.

What are the keys to building healthy relationships? How is your mindset–fixed or not–involved in your relationships?

We’ll cover why having a growth mindset is the key to developing healthy relationships, and we’ll look at common relationship myths to avoid.

Helping Each Other Develop to Build Healthy Relationships

In healthy relationships, partners are on the same side, not competing or battling constantly. They develop the skills to handle differences — both partners grow and the relationship grows. Each helps the other achieve and become the person they want to be. This is key to building healthy relationships.

For example, Laura encouraged Jack in his plans to start a business, and Jack encouraged Laura to pursue her dream of writing a children’s book. When they were first married, Laura was prone to yelling and being defensive, but Jack didn’t take it personally and helped her learn to handle things constructively. A relationship is an opportunity for two people to help each other grow.

Grow Your Mindset: Tips for Building Healthy Relationships

  • After a rejection, do you feel an urge to get revenge, or would you rather learn from what went wrong in the relationship and move on? Think of a past rejection and try to look at it with a growth mindset. What did you learn from it that could help you in building healthy relationships in the future?
  • When a problem of conflict comes up in your relationship, do you react by blaming the other person? Create a fictional character with a name and blame him instead. Then think about what you can do rather than whom to blame.

To Develop Healthy Relationships, Avoid These Myths About Love

Because having a fixed mindset means you believe traits are set in stone, you have several beliefs about your relationship:

  • Your traits are fixed and unchangeable.
  • Your partner’s traits are unchangeable.
  • Your relationship is unchangeable: it was either meant to be or not to be. If it was meant to be, you’ll live in perfect harmony, happily ever after.

If you have a growth mindset, you believe the opposite — that you, your partner, and your relationship can grow. 

Of course, everyone wants to believe their relationship is unique and special. There’s nothing wrong with that — if you avoid the following pitfalls and myths of fixed-mindset thinking. This is an important step in building healthy relationships.

Myth: Your Partner is Your Competitor

In a fixed mindset where you have to keep proving yourself, it’s easy to get into a competition with your partner over who’s more talented or intelligent. Here’s an extreme example: Cynthia always felt competitive and had to outdo her partners in the areas most important to them. For instance, when she developed a relationship with an actor, she started writing successful plays. These actions chased the men away. She didn’t allow them to have their own identity. She said she was just showing interest in their interests, but in reality, she needed to equal or surpass them at everything. This is not going to help you build healthy relationships.

Myth: Problems Equal Character Flaws

Those with fixed mindsets see problems as a sign of a character flaw. This mindset also won’t help you develop healthy relationships. When conflicts occur, they look for something to blame — often their partner’s personality. They can become angry and disgusted with their partner, an attitude they extend to the whole relationship. Since they believe traits are set in stone, the problem is unsolvable. Or, to avoid believing the relationship can’t be fixed, they may deny problems instead.

Some people keep dating one person after another because they’re trying to find the perfect person. For instance, one woman from a study, Penelope, dated a string of men but always broke up when she discovered what she considered to be a flaw, such as watching too much television. These flaws were small things that could have been addressed with tolerance or communication, but she preferred to move on because she believed there was someone out there who was already perfect.

Everyone has flaws or things that look like flaws to us. Problems are normal occurrences in relationships. Growth-minded people accept flaws — they believe a person or relationship can still be good without being perfect. They also believe people can grow. This is key for building healthy relationships.

For example, after a special prosecutor uncovered Bill Clinton’s relationship with an intern, which he had lied about to his wife, Hillary Clinton had to decide whether his lying was a fixed trait or whether he could improve with help and commitment. She believed he could change and they went to counseling one full day a week for a year.

Myth: You Should Agree on Everything

In addition to mind-reading, many fixed-mindset people believe two people in a relationship should have the same views about everything. A study showed how this works. Researchers asked couples to discuss their views of the relationship. People with fixed mindsets felt threatened and irritated when even tiny discrepancies in how they each saw the relationship came to light.

However, it’s impossible to share the same beliefs and assumptions about everything. It takes effort to communicate honestly and accurately, to understand each other’s views, and to resolve conflicts. You can live “happily ever after,” but it takes work. Hard work is key to developing healthy relationships.

Myth: Your Partner Can Read Your Mind

People with fixed mindsets believe partners should be so in sync that they can read each other’s minds. Of course, this is impossible. You need to communicate, not try to read minds. It’s easy to misinterpret what the other person says or means. 

For instance, when the author’s partner asked for more space, she thought he was talking about changing or ending the relationship. But he only wanted more room where they were sitting. Clarifying the thoughts of your partner and clearly communicating your own is part of building healthy relationships.

Myth: It’s Magic

People with fixed mindsets believe that if two people are right for each other, their relationship should always be smooth sailing. Compatibility means everything should come naturally and you shouldn’t have to work on your relationship. If you have troubles, then the relationship wasn’t meant to be. (Relationship experts say this is one of the most harmful beliefs you can have in a relationship.)

In contrast, the growth-minded view is that they’ll work together to learn relationship skills, solve problems, and grow. Success comes from work and commitment, not magic. This is the ultimate lesson in building healthy relationships.

Building Healthy Relationships Depends on a Growth Mindset

———End of Preview———

Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best summary of "Mindset" at Shortform. Learn the book's critical concepts in 20 minutes or less.

Here's what you'll find in our full Mindset summary:

  • The difference between a growth and a fixed mindset
  • How a fixed mindset keeps you back throughout your life: education, relationships, and career
  • The 7 key ways to build a growth mindset for yourself

Amanda Penn

Amanda Penn is a writer and reading specialist. She’s published dozens of articles and book reviews spanning a wide range of topics, including health, relationships, psychology, science, and much more. Amanda was a Fulbright Scholar and has taught in schools in the US and South Africa. Amanda received her Master's Degree in Education from the University of Pennsylvania.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.