Do you remember all those fun science experiments as a kid? How about the one with the magnet and the iron shavings? Was it not amazing to see how powerfully two magnets would oppose each other when they were faced the wrong way? It was incredible how strongly they connected and how much more power they had when they faced the right way.

Our relationships with our significant others are very similar to those magnets. We either can spend our time and energy making sure we are turned the way we feel is best for us, or we can take that same energy, turn toward each other, and unleash more energy, creative power, and productivity than we have ever known.

So often, people view self-improvement as a quest involving only the individual. However, when we have committed to share our lives with someone else, it is imperative that we get them on board as well. It is kind of like two horses pulling a cart side by side. One horse can become stronger than the other, but ultimately, it can only pull the cart as fast as the weaker animal. In a committed relationship, it is the same way. Let me give you a personal example from my own life that happened this very morning.

My husband, Chris, is fulfilling his dreams by getting his law degree, which means very long hours studying very tedious material. I am also living my dreams staying at home with our daughter while running a successful Internet business. We have learned that one important part of pursuing those dreams is strengthening each other. For example, I woke up this morning to the sounds of our baby daughter crying and ready to eat. I stumbled out of bed as quietly as possible as my husband did not need to be up for another hour.

When it was time for Chris to get up, I gently woke him with a kiss and told him it was time to get up. He thanked me for the dinner I had left him before taking off to my meeting the night before as he rolled out of bed. I headed for the kitchen to make him a lunch and noticed the mound of dishes we both had been too busy to tackle yesterday and possibly the day before. Before I had finished washing the second dish, my husband was at my side and offered to finish them up. I thanked him and proceeded to make him an extra special lunch and get to work on my business.

After he was done in the kitchen, I heard one of our songs playing from the stereo, and I looked to see my husband dancing in the living room with our daughter. He asked me to join him. With her nestled in between us, we took a few minutes to dance together. Chris then went and put on my favorite shirt of his before having a quick breakfast and going our separate ways for the day. Although both of us had a busy, stressful, hectic day ahead of us, each of us was ready to take on the world because of the energy and love we had found in each other.

Sounds like a made-up fairy tale, does it not? What is the secret? Actually, it is the result of constant, vigilant hard work and conscious effort on both our parts. Instead of improving and progressing completely on our own, we have learned to share the load and strengthen the other. Think back on the two horses pulling the cart side by side. The stronger horse can only go as fast as its weaker counterpart. Pulling the cart harder will only make him tired and will not get him down the road any faster. In contrast, strengthening his partner will not only get him to his destination faster, it will lighten his load as well.

Another key thing to strengthening your partner and, in turn, building yourself is knowing what makes a difference to your partner. What is meaningful to your partner? For example, this morning, my husband and I danced in the living room. Many would assume he did that for me. In reality, he is the romantic in our relationship. Although I enjoyed the dance, I did it for him because it means so much to him. In turn, he knows it means the world to me when he spends time with our daughter, so dancing as a threesome was uplifting for everyone.

Are you ready to begin strengthening your partner and reaping the benefits of growing together? Here are some ways to get started.

• Recognize that strengthening each other takes time and effort. When you want to be successful in your career, you put time, thought, and effort into your job and make it a priority. It is no different with making a relationship successful and meaningful. Try to do at least one small thing each day to strengthen your partner.
• Find out what strengthens your partner. This is different with everyone. A great way to do this is by asking him what means a lot to him. Sometimes people do not really know. A great tool to help discover more about yourself and your partner is through assessment tools and personality tests. Through assessment tools you can discover what makes your partner tick and what is meaningful to him.
• Once you know what strengthens your partner, make a conscious effort to do those things for him, not what you like to do to help. If your spouse loves it when you join him in his hobbies, learn to sit through that football game without grumbling or run that 5K with him. He, in turn, will be more willing to help around the house if he knows that is what means most to you.
• Be careful not to keep score on who is giving more up for the other. There will be times in your partnership where one will provide more support as the other needs more. Remember, the point is to grow together, not compete against each other.

As you begin strengthening each other, your power and ability to accomplish much in this life will increase in ways you have never imagined. Remember, just as magnets, we have two choices on how to spend our energy in our relationships. We can either work hard to keep things the way we want it, or we can turn toward each other and, in turn, strengthen each other and become a powerful force for everyone: our families, our community, our coworkers, and especially ourselves.

** This article is one of 101 great articles that were published in 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life. To get complete details on “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life”, visit

Author's Bio: 

Wendy Bridger, LMSW, and her partner Margrit Harris, MSSW, are cocreators of the Right Relationship Real Happiness Series. In this program series, people truly discover themselves and their partners. Included in each series are four Awareness Tools that provide valuable insight into creating meaningful relationships and real happiness. This mother-daughter team has over 25 years of experience helping people better their relationships. They have worked throughout the United States and the Philippines. Each is happily married and practices what she teaches. For more information, go to