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Every relationship between two people is unique. Personalities, cultures, beliefs, interests, experiences, etc, reveal the infinite possibilities of types of couples. However, there are foundational pieces that foster healthy, lasting relationships no matter what two people are involved.
For those who know me well, you may be asking, “Why is she writing about relationships? She’s so private, she’s newly single and personally, I think she’s too young to know such things.” No matter what your first impression is upon reading the title of today’s post, I decided to write it because I’m passionate about it.
I may not be in a relationship at the moment, but I finally have realized I genuinely want to be, and finally feel I am ready (and able) to be a good partner in a relationship. I may be too young to know of what I write, but I know what hasn’t worked and what has been lacking in my past relationships. And on the flipside, I know what did work and what made my past relationships times in my life which I do not regret. To add to this, I am fortunate to be around many friends and family who are in loving, committed relationships, and I am either observing them (not in a creepy way, I promise) or bombarding them with questions regarding how they make it work.
So with that said, whether you are in a relationship or wanting to be in one someday, here are 17 ways to become a better partner as you both work to create a healthy, loving, respectful and lasting relationship.
1. Be Secure Within Yourself. So often in my twenties, I thought I was ready for a lasting relationship, but the main component that was missing was that I wasn’t confident that I had found what I was passionate doing. So I was still searching, willing to move to chase it down and feeling a bit restless. I hadn’t found my outlet that made me feel as though I was contributing what I had to offer to the world. At the same time I was still creating a foundation – a career, a home, etc, and hadn’t yet figured out how to balance it all. Once I discovered an outlet for my passions and talents and an avenue to share them so that I felt productive at the end of each day, I discovered contentment. I began to realize that I could live this thing called life, and live it well which up until that point, I hoped I could, but I wasn’t sure of myself. In other words I had finally discovered what I needed to maintain my balance and feel secure within myself.
2. Know How to Make Yourself Happy First. Once you feel secure within yourself, you realize you don’t project any expectations of what you need onto your partner. In other words, you aren’t looking at them expecting them to make you happy. After all, it isn’t their job. When two secure individuals come together, while they are able to make themselves happy, they realize that two already complete people can create something even more amazing.
3. Eliminate Unnecessary Selfishness. Once you have discovered how to create your own happiness, you can then focus on giving to your partner. Now this is a two way street. Both partners should delight in the euphoria of their partner’s joy. “Unnecessary selfishness” is a very subjective phrase, but often times one of the partners gives everything – their time, their energy, letting go of their dreams to support their partner – and is too selfless. A healthy balance must be struck. When both partners are conscious and sensitive to each others feelings, dreams and needs, the wrong type of selfishness can easily be eliminated. An example of selfishness that should be curtailed is telling your partner you are too busy to “spend time together”, “to take a walk together”, to yada, yada, yada. While on the surface, the statement may be true, it also reveals to your partner their place on the priority list. So strike the right balance, make sure your priorities are in order to help maintain a healthy, respectful relationship.
4. Be Honest. Be Trustworthy. Lies and omissions only rot the possibility of true intimacy with your partner. Make sure you model how you would like to be treated and behave in a manner (whether you are with your partner or not) that is respectful to the commitment you’ve made to each other and continues to build the trust you’ve already created.
5. Be Responsible. There are going to be good and bad days. There will be days when we get upset or moody. After the emotion has subsided, take time to determine what caused you to become so upset, and take the responsibility of stating the truth behind your emotions. If your partner’s behavior made you feel left out or as though you were the third wheel, let them know. If you feel as though your efforts are being taking advantage of and your partner isn’t doing their share, talk about that. As an adult in a relationship, such conversations aren’t necessarily easy, but they are necessary to create a stronger bond and true understanding of each other’s needs. Many times, it will simply be a misunderstanding, while other times, it’s an opportunity to understand each other better and understand what makes your partner feel comfortable, safe and loved.
6. Be Appreciative. Showing your appreciation for little things that are tended to each day is a simple way to strengthen your relationship. Whether it is putting the garbage on the curb, making dinner, calling you to let you know when they’ll be home, each one of these seemingly small actions demonstrates thoughtfulness and consideration for the others’ feelings and time.
7. Be Able to Apologize. If you were grumpy or difficult, and you realize your behavior was unwarranted toward them, apologize. Take responsibility for your actions. No one is perfect, and people make mistakes reacting on emotion instead of thinking rationally at times. By taking responsibility and apologizing sincerely, you help to gain trust and reveal that while you will make mistakes, you don’t want to hurt them. Now, make sure not to make the same mistake, because that’s an entirely different issue that speaks to lack of respect of the relationship and of the person you are involved with.
8. Spend Quality Time Together, Just the Two of You. When the relationship you are involved in is a priority in your life, you want to spend time together. While there will be instances when you are socializing with others, these time don’t offer moments for intimacy or bonding. Make sure to take the time to just be together – a movie, dinner at your favorite restaurant, hiking, cooking dinner together or simply staying home and enjoying time relaxing.
9. Laugh Together. As a couple, when you are able to laugh together (not at each other, as a way to demean), you are opening yourself up to your partner, allowing yourself to be vulnerable. In those moments when you are able to laugh at yourself, and they themselves, this also shows trust towards each other that they won’t capitalize, humiliate or judge, but simply enjoy the moment with you.
10. Be Their Number One Fan. While in life, each one of us is very capable of achieving amazing things on our own volition, I am well aware of the confidence boost I receive when I have people I love standing behind me, supporting me as I work towards my goals. As a partner, come to understand what your partner’s dreams and goals are, and then be there supporting them as they strive to achieve it – in good times and in bad. Let them know that you are always going to be in their corner. Knowing that you have the support of your partner, is an amazing boost. Again, this should be a two-way street.
11. Have Integrity. It is said that women fall in love with their ears and men fall in love with their eyes. While this is a generality, I do believe that women want to believe what their partner tells them. However, I don’t believe this is exclusive to women. Anybody, when they hear what they want to hear, wants it to be true. The key to any healthy, lasting relationship is that the two people involved follow through with what they say. If you tell your partner that you are going to do something, make sure you do so when you say you will. Be sure to show up on time. If you offer your help, follow through and extend your efforts as previously promised.
12. Respectfully Communicate. Even when both parties involved have the same intention for the relationship, there will be moments of frustration and growth that need to be navigated through. In order to come out on the other side together and still respecting each other, respectful communication is key. Almost two years ago, I shared a post on how to do just that (click here to read).
Communication will work and will strengthen your relationship (all relationships for that matter) if both parties are willing to work at the art of communication.
13. Be a Good Listener and Observer. In order to get to know your partner and understand what makes them tick, pay attention. Not only should you listen well to understand who your partner is, what they like, what makes them upset and why, but be observant of how they respond in certain situations, what makes them comfortable, what makes them smile, what makes them nervous, etc. Often you will gain as much insight or more simply by observing their behavior. (Click here to learn how to become a better listener.)
14. Let Them Know They are Special. It is imperative that both parties feel they are special to their partner. In other words, to feel as though you are irreplaceable and hold a place of priority in their partner’s life that makes it clear you are important in their present and future. For example, when you feel special to someone, you understand that even if you have an argument, it doesn’t threaten the relationship from existing. When you feel special, you know you’d have a much more enjoyable time with them, then without them because their is an intimacy, a comfort, that is provided that no one else can.
15. Don’t Get Lazy in Love. In time, habits are created and expectations become second-nature with regards to how and what our partner will do. However, don’t assume the behavior that you’ve become accustom to will always be there. If you don’t exercise the muscle of appreciation, love, and adoration, it will wither. Let them know they are missed when they are away on a work trip or you are gone for business. Count your blessings and you will be sure to have more to count.
16. Sexual Intimacy. Build it. Foster it. Talk about it. Be able to trust one another, so you can be on the same page with one another and fulfill each others needs.
17. Be Committed. After having looked behind the curtain and learned and come to like who your partner truly is, and realizing you are with someone who has similar values, has similar goals for the future, loves who you are (and visa versa) and both parties want to work and grow together even through the frustrating times, hold fast to this commitment. Understand that there are valleys and hills, but also trust that if you adhere to each of the steps above, more good days and memorable moments are in your future together.
Since I shared my disclaimer above, and also, since I am always wanting to learn, for those of you who have had or currently had successful experiences in the world of love, please do share your advice and insights on what contributes to a healthy and lasting relationship.