Center for Shared Insight, PC

How Your Mindset Predicts Relationship Success

April 11, 2017
Posted By: Kristen Hick, Psy.D.
couple walking in woods

The basic beliefs you have about yourself and your control over your future make up your mindset. Research performed by Stanford Psychologist Carol Dweck and summarized in Brain Picking’s recent article by Maria Popova, suggests that while this perspective may shift due to circumstances or personal variables, individuals fall in two core buckets when it comes to mindset: Fixed or Growth. Each of these mindsets has a direct impact on your relationship success and cultivating awareness of–and potentially changing–your default mindset can greatly influence the dynamics of your romantic partnerships.

Similar to attachment systems, individuals develop one of these two mindsets at a very early age due to interactions with parents, teachers, peers, caregivers and other influential forces. While your tendency is likely towards one of these mindsets, it’s possible to shift from one to the other, or fall on the spectrum between the two.

Fixed Mindset

Individuals with a fixed mindset have grown up being praised for results, rather than their efforts. They are achievement-oriented, thinking more in right versus wrong, black versus white terms with little attention given to the in between or grey areas. An individual with a fixed mindset believes that his or her abilities and personality traits are static or nearly impossible to change. This person believes that much of his/her character traits are predetermined and cannot evolve, and therefore, this person measures his/her potential, compared to peers, without believing that an investment in personal growth and development can have an impact on abilities. This person places high value on approval from others – do receiving praise or reinforcement for results rather than efforts - and views too much effort on any given task as an indication of his/her inadequacies.

Growth Mindset

In contrast, an individual with a growth mindset was praised for efforts over results by teachers, parents and others growing up. Individuals with this mindset are therefore, more likely to try more difficult tasks as children, knowing that any effort towards accomplishing more difficult tasks is valued; whereas, fixed mindset individuals tend to avoid more challenging tasks, staying within their zone of comfort in getting things right. Growth mindset people thrive in environments in which personal growth, challenge, and development are the norm. This person believes in the possibility of learning and training oneself to acquire any skills or ability desired. Those with a growth mindset sincerely believe that anything is possible with hard-work, commitment, and experience. Subsequently, a person with this mindset believes that he/she is responsible for and controls his/her own happiness.

Impact on Relationships

The fascinating impact of mindset on relationships was outlined in research from Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck. Interestingly, those with a fixed mindset subscribed more to the fairy tale version of relationships or idealized love. Those individuals believe more in the idea that they need to find an ideal partner, rather than working towards a successful relationship. Those with such a mindset want their partner to make them feel perfect and they highly value their partner’s approval. People with this mindset expect a relationship to be automatically good and seek a “soul mate” that is the “perfect fit” rather than aspiring to improve a relationship with skills and learning over time. If the partner does not “fit the bill” it can be assumed that the relationship might not be given an adequate chance to develop.

In contrast, those with a growth mindset buy into the concept that an ideal relationship could be achieved with hard work and commitment to healthy practices including communication, boundaries, and trust. This type of person welcomes constructive feedback and collaboration towards a successful partnership in which both parties are consistently improving. Just as those with a growth mindset believe they had the ability to positively impact their personal skills, they too believe that they have full control over creating positive, lasting relationships through effort. Couples who have this mindset expect change to occur with individual partners (e.g., a meat eater deciding to practice a vegetarian lifestyle) and within the relationship over time, and are accepting and encouraging of those changes.

Changing Your Mindset

While much of the research around this topic suggests that mindset is fixed from an early age, it’s not impossible to shift towards a growth mindset. The very act of changing and cultivating a different approach to your perspective on life is an attribute of a growth mindset. Here are three ways that you can begin to shift from a fixed to growth mindset:

Self-reflection exercises

Understanding more about your view of self and your goals, shortcomings, and areas for potential can help you identify where fixed mindset may be limiting your growth. Focus on practice rather than perfect in the goals you set. For example, if you want to learn how to learn how to do a headstand in yoga, focus on your practice of getting to yoga, strengthening your core muscles, and each incremental step of inversion of your way to a headstand, not just whether or not you landed a headstand. Journaling, working with a coach, and regularly documenting and revisiting goals can go a long ways in changing these patterns.

Cultivating awareness in relationship

Regularly talking with your partner about areas of improvement and lovingly suggesting small ways to move in a positive direction is the foundation for creating a growth-minded relationship. Willingness to receive feedback and make specific suggestions for improvement is essential in healthy, lasting love. Consider ways both of you can make efforts to improve the relationship, or how can you grow together.


Working with an experienced therapist can help you identify patterns in your thinking and overcome ways in which you might transfer responsibility from yourself to external factors. A therapist is a trained expert in reflecting back your own limiting beliefs and can hold you accountable to the change you desire.

Contact the team at Center for Shared Insight to learn more about the power of therapy on lasting personal growth and development. Begin shifting your mindset today.       

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