Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Principled Commitment: An Adult Program on Building Strong Relationships

Activity 3: Growing Together

Activity time: 60 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Roll of narrow poster paper or large sheets of newsprint 2 to 3 feet of paper per couple)
  • Pens, pencils, or fine-point markers
  • Tables
  • Optional: Yardsticks, rulers, or other straightedge tools

Preparation for Activity

  • If you are using a roll of paper, cut it into appropriate lengths.
  • To save time, you may wish to draw three long, straight lines (parallel to the long edge) on each sheet of paper. This will eliminate the need for participants to use straightedge tools during the activity.
  • Arrange the room - or arrange for a room - so that participants can work at tables.

Description of Activity

Introduce the activity with these or similar words:

We will now focus on one of the skills that commitment can nurture: growing together.

It is natural for humans to grow. Interpersonal growth occurs for people at different rates and at different times. Some people grow so slowly they appear unchanging, while others' personalities seem to change overnight.

When couples enter a relationship, they may be at similar points on their evolutionary journey. But sometimes one partner grows when the other doesn't. Or they may both grow, but in different directions.

Growth itself can put stress on a relationship. So can attempts to stifle growth. How can we be supportive of our own and our partners' growth, and continue to nurture our commitment to one another?

Ask participants to pair off with their partners at the tables. Distribute the newsprint or drawing paper; straightedge tools (if needed); and pens, pencils, or markers. Tell participants:

You will work together to create three timelines of your relationship: one for each of you as individuals and one for the two of you as a couple. Each line starts on the day your relationship began and ends with the present. On the lines, you will mark events and periods of personal growth: times when one or the other of you grew as an individual and times when you grew as a couple. You will have 15 minutes to draw your timelines.

After 15 minutes, or when you notice that couples have finished constructing their timelines, invite them to remain in their pairs and discuss their timelines with each other. Ask them to identify high-growth events or periods on each line and consider:

  • What accounted for the growth at that time?
  • Was it a pleasant time, an unpleasant time, or both?
  • During that time, how did I support my partner (or how did my partner support me)?
  • What did we learn from that time that we want to carry forward?

After 30 minutes of discussion, draw the group back together to process the activity. Ask:

  • What is scary about personal growth in a relationship? What is joyful about it?
  • Are there limits to what amount or type of growth a partner might reasonably support? In such situations, what are partner's options?
  • What kinds of attitudes and outlooks can assist us in supporting our partner's personal growth?