3 Ways To Foster The Self-Awareness It Takes To Make A Relationship Successful

Discover the ways to build this crucial skill and grow together with your partner.

couple holding hands at overlook DR 8 Studios / Shutterstock

The importance of self-awareness in relationships really can't be understated. Without it, you’re as good as hollow.

The most important process you can undergo as a human being is the practice of developing an understanding of who you are, what you want, and how it serves you to do what you do in any experience throughout your life.

By supporting clients in becoming deeply aware of the mind, body, and spirit connection in their process of healing and becoming whole again, I have the honor of witnessing this shift out of unconscious action into intentional being.


One of the greatest lessons I've learned from my own therapist is to get curious: not about the “why,” but about the “how.” How does it serve you to react, respond, move towards, or move away in any relationship? Anything you do in your experience, whether you define it as positive or negative serves you in some way. Developing a practice of curiosity and reflection can lead you to a deeper understanding of yourself. 

Many people get stuck on how to build their self-awareness and inner knowing. Developing the practice to check in as you move throughout the day can help. 

RELATED: 3 Examples Of How Unexpected Events Can Help Elevate Self-Awareness


Now that you recognize the importance of self-awareness in relationships, here are 3 ways to build more: 

1. Know and understand your defenses.

Gestalt theory defines your defenses as creative adjustments. The introjection, retroflection, and projection are all distinct from one another, however, they have the same objective, which is to keep you safe, protected, and even alive at times. 

The introjections are the beliefs that you develop in your early years. The voices inside saying you’re not smart enough, pretty enough, or you’re too shy, too loud, or too sensitive. Most often rooted in shame, they are deeply held in your body. 

Dr. Brené Brown defines shame as the “intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging. It's an emotion that affects all of us and profoundly shapes the way we interact in the world.” 

Understanding your core beliefs and where they stem from is the first step towards building self-awareness. If you grew up believing you’re not smart enough, your creative adjustment might present as a pattern of self-sabotage or imposter syndrome. 


The patterns you developed as a child to stay attached to your caregivers served to keep you safe back then. As an adult, these patterns can limit your capacity for growth. They stop you from living a life of full expression. 

Retroflections happen when you silence your voice in relationships to avoid conflict; the result is physical, emotional, and mental pain. Self-abandonment breeds contempt and resentment for those you strive to love the most, including yourself.

A quick temper, a pounding headache, a sleepless night can all be indicators that your system is giving you information to get curious about

Projections occur when your internal experience of negative emotions is misplaced onto the people in your life. For example, if you’ve ever yelled at your partner or your child for seemingly no reason after a long, difficult day of work, this is an example of a projection.


If you find yourself sitting in judgment of what others are doing, this is a projection of your fears or a desire to not be judged yourself. Projection creates distance and a lack of connection.

When you give yourself the time to notice your behaviors and where they’re coming from, you can develop a practice of responding vs reacting to your environment. The distinction between the two is time and mindfulness. 

You can become keenly aware of when you’re feeling triggered, how the trigger shows up in your body, then identify the need to shift back to center.

What is your immediate need? What are the emotions you need to reckon with to get your awareness back online? 


Dr. Brown describes in her book, Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, ”The Rising Strong process includes three steps: The Reckoning, The Rumbling, and The Revolution. Reckoning involves walking into our story by paying attention to our emotions and getting curious about them, rather than numbing or ignoring the discomfort.” The rumbling involves owning the story and the revolution includes writing a new ending and changing how we engage in the world. 

When you pause, notice your breath and get curious about your emotions, you will move through them instead of remaining stuck in the narrative. 

RELATED: How Self-Awareness Can Improve Your Relationship

2. Know and live in alignment with your values

Understanding your core values is crucial to recognizing what's really driving your behaviors. Having a handle on your belief system will offer you clarity in the practice of discernment in your relationships. If you're noticing that your values and your partner’s values are not aligned, for example, this can offer you insight into the potential longevity of your relationship. 


Many couples can find themselves in the trap of wanting the other person to change or shift how they view the world so that they can feel more comfortable in the relationship. This creates a false sense of security and ultimately backfires in the long run. 

3. Know and understand your boundaries

Knowing where you begin and end is essential in building self-awareness in your relationships. 

When you come to a relationship from the experience of your sense of wholeness, you can know and understand that the value of your “yes” is only as good as the value of your “no.” Boundaries are an essential component to trust and self-awareness in relationships. Trusting that you can say “no” without feeling responsible for the feelings of others is the path to being believed when you say “yes.” 


Your body gives you all the information you need to feel your intuition and know what your soul is offering to you.

As a fine art and portraiture photographer, whose art focuses on growth and transformation, Josephine Cardin suggests that “Self-awareness is the unlocking of self-imprisonment…this opens you up to change, growth, self-love, self-trust, and only then, can you truly love and give to another without taking from them. If you have two people doing that....well, that's kind of magic.”

The process of building self-awareness in relationships begins with the curiosity of the self. Developing a practice of awareness takes time and compassion. Once you have a sense that you are struggling to know who you are, what you want, and how your actions are serving you, practicing curiosity will begin to fill in the information you are seeking.

When you recognize the importance of self-awareness in relationships and start on the path to foster more of it, you will begin to feel complete as you are and can move to a grounded and centered place with yourself and your partner. 


RELATED: 18 Powerful Ways Being Self-Aware Helps You Creates The Life You Want

Christine Vargo, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, a certified Gestalt Therapist, and a Certified Daring Way Facilitator (CDWF - Clinician) currently in private practice. You can find more information about Christine and the services she is currently offering on her website.