Whether your relationship is on the rocks or smooth sailing, every relationship can benefit from some improvement and introspection. You may be inexperienced in the ways of relationships, in a long-term relationship that has lost its spark, or looking for ways to spice up or renew your commitment. Humans innately crave connection, and being a part of a couple is hard work- so why should we not learn everything we can about feeding that connection?
There is always something new to be learned or tried when it comes to relationships. Here are ten tips for being a better partner:
- Communicate. Tell your partner what you need or want from them. No one is a mind reader, and assuming that your partner will know that you want them to text you when they leave work or do the dishes if you make dinner is just setting yourself up for disappointment and resentment. Use “I” statements to tell your partner how you feel, for example “I feel rejected when you don’t call me back.”
- Listen. When your partner talks to you, make sure that you are looking them in the eye and not doing anything else at the same time. Really take in and respond to what they are saying, reflecting their feelings such as, “It sounds like you feel stressed from such a difficult conversation with your friend.”
- Show that you care. When you really listen to and communicate with your partner, it is easier to show them that you care about them. Ask your partner about their day, and keep track of important events in their life. Maybe your partner mentions being worried about a big meeting coming up. Try to remember the day the meeting is, and ask about it. This shows that you care about the things your partner cares about.
- Small gestures make a big impact. Little things like making the bed in the morning the way you know your partner likes it, packing your partner a lunch, or offering to take the kids to early Saturday practice are simple ways to do something nice for your partner that they will truly appreciate.
- Compromise. It is important in any relationship to meet each other in the middle. Stubbornness rarely gets people anywhere. Perhaps your partner likes to stay up later than you do. Try to reach an agreement where they can go to sleep earlier on some nights of the week, or you each can push your bedtime closer to each other’s.
- Take care of yourself. To be a good partner it's important to be your best self. When you aren’t doing well, your partner is affected.
- Give space. Just because you are dating, getting serious, or married doesn’t mean that you and your partner have “become one”. Remember that you are still two different people with some differing interests, hopes, and needs. Take a night out with your friends away from your partner, and let them do the same.
- Surprise your partner. If you’re out running errands and happen to see something your partner might like, pick it up for them. Buy some flowers or their favorite beer and surprise them when they get home one day. This is a thoughtful way to show your partner you’re thinking of them.
- Plan a date night. If you and your partner don’t get to spend much time together, are on opposite schedules, or have children, sometimes the romance in a relationship begins to die. Plan into your schedule a weekly “date night” for just the two of you.
- Spice it up. Do something you’ve never done before- like going to a new restaurant, trying ice-skating, or a novel move in the bedroom. This helps you get out of the normal routine and allows you and your partner to be spontaneous and get to know the people you are always still becoming.
No person or relationship will ever be perfect, and being in a good partnership takes work. Some days you will be better than others, but all you can do is accept that and keep trying. If this list is too exhaustive for you, perhaps try choosing one thing to work on. Your partner will thank you.
Author: Grace Norberg, AMFT