How to push your partner when they’re not living up to their potential

In the movies, getting married or partnering up with someone looks like it’s all surprise romantic getaways and nights snuggling on the couch. In reality, it’s hitching yourself to someone else and letting your life be majorly impacted by how smooth their ride is. I know that sucks that magic out of coupledom, but it’s basically what a long-term relationship is. Well, sprinkle in the joys of companionship, some good sex and maybe even a few romantic getaways. But, what do you do when you feel like your partner could be so much better than they are? It’s so touchy. It is their path, but their success and happiness impacts your life in a major way. So there’s got to be something you can do, right? If you feel like your partner isn’t living up to their potential, here’s how I think you should handle it.

Ask questions

You probably could have guessed that my first suggestion was going to be to talk to your partner, right? In this conversation, I want you to really do more listening, though. Ask your partner what their goals are and really dig into it. If you’re struggling with their career path, ask what their game plan is for their career and why they want to pursue it. If you’re struggling with how they manage their family, ask what they like about their relationships with their family members. Ask about salary, lifestyle, family goals or whatever it is in their life that you’re bumping up against. Maybe they’ll explain their current situation in a way that makes you less concerned or allows you to understand their end goals. Even if not, it’s still good to know what your partner is thinking about the big things in their life.

Discuss your role

Now it’s time for you to do some of the talking. If you still have concerns after you get their answers to your questions, express them in a gentle way. Take out phrases like “you should” or “you never.” It might be more helpful for you to outline your goals and timeline and ask how you partner envisions their life and your ideal life synching up. That’s an easy way to express worry without it being too accusatory or condescending. Then, talk about how you can support them in making your life trajectories work together. Maybe it’s proofing a resume or running lines with them or finding room in your budget for a career coach or, and you should be ready for this, staying out of it entirely. You two need to discuss what your role is and be clear about it. Constructive criticism can be really great for achieving goals, but, when it’s unsolicited, it can also be total disaster for a relationship. Make sure whatever you contribute to their success is welcome, so you’re not contributing to your relationship’s demise.

Be positive

Be your partner’s biggest cheerleader. It’s not just about showing support, it’s about reinforcing the actions you want to see more of. Celebrate when you think your boo is taking steps toward fulfilling their potential and layer on the praise when it’s deserved. Leaning into positive reinforcement is an easier and more fun way to change someone’s behavior than negative reinforcement. And, from my experience, it’s even more effective. Not to mention, so much better for your relationship.

Hope that helps you jump-start your partner’s ambitions. Remember, everyone has slow cycles in their life, professionally and personally, but it’s important that your long term goals do match up. As long as they do, you two will weather out the down times.