Great relationships don’t just happen. They take work. You need to work together to build a solid relationship based on mutual love, respect, and trust. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t work to do alone as well.
In great relationships, both of you are working hard to be the best partner that you can be. In this article, we’re going to look at what that means, and the best ways to be a better partner (and person).
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Before we can look at how to become a better person in a relationship, we need to really understand what being a “good person” means, and whether there are different criteria for being a good person in a relationship compared with just being a good person in life generally.
Someone who is generally a good person and is kind, loving, and respectful to other people in their life will usually also be a good partner in a relationship. The biggest difference when it comes to relationships is that we need to show even more of these good qualities.
Here are some of the most important qualities you’ll need to be a good partner in a relationship.
We all know that great relationships need a rock-solid foundation of trust. There’s no shortcut to real trust. If you want your partner to be able to trust you, you need to be trustworthy.
Trust isn’t as simple as most people think. There’s much more to it than just not telling lies. Being trustworthy means that your partner knows that they can rely on you. They know that you could let them down, but they feel confident that you won’t.
When you’re trustworthy, your partner doesn’t need to worry about whether you’ll be there when they need you. They just know that you will. They know that you mean what you say, you’ll do what you promise, and you’ll act according to your shared values.
A great partner in a relationship is also supportive. If you’re a supportive partner, it means that you work to build your partner up, rather than tearing them down. If they want to work towards an important goal, you’ll look for ways to make that easier for them.
Being supportive can also mean making space for your partner to grow. When you first meet someone and start to fall in love with them, you’re falling in love with who they are at that exact moment in their life. They won’t stay exactly like that forever, and you shouldn’t want them to.
Growing, learning, and developing are essential (and enormously rewarding) parts of life. If you’re a supportive partner, you’re looking for ways to help your loved one grow even when this isn’t always in your personal best interest.
For example, you might offer to take extra shifts at work so that they can take time out to study for their dream job. That’s extra work for you, but you’re happy to do it to help them achieve their dream.
It’s important not to take this quality too far, though. Your needs should be just as important to them. If the relationship is too one-sided, it can become co-dependent.
A great partner is able to empathize and really understand how their partner is feeling. Great empathy skills make it easier for you to know how to help and support your partner and allow them to feel understood.
Being self-aware makes it easier for you to recognize how you behave and the effect it can have on the people around you. We all know someone with poor self-awareness. They don’t seem to realize that they’re talking over you or that they’ve just said something insensitive.
Someone who lacks self-awareness saunters through life not seeing that their actions can be difficult for others. They’ll often be surprised and offended when people try to point this out to them. Would you want to date that person? If not then try not to be that person.
One of the biggest things that we look for from our romantic partners is affection and love. Someone who is a good partner in a relationship will usually show their affection regularly. They’ll also be grateful for the things their partner does for them.
Amazing partners will often show their affection in multiple different ways daily. They might wake you up with a cup of coffee and a kiss, hold your hand when you’re walking together, catch your eye and smile across the room if you’re at a party, and ask for a cuddle while you’re on the sofa.
This is one quality that I don’t think gets talked about enough. Someone who has a generous spirit wants to help and support you without thinking about what they’re going to get in return. They’re genuinely happy to make others happy.
This isn’t the same as being a doormat or codependent. People with generosity of spirit still have boundaries and expect to be treated well. They just consistently choose to behave in ways that are kind and loving.
Someone who is generous of spirit is a wonderful partner in a relationship.
I don’t think it’s possible to be a good partner in a relationship without treating the other person with respect. There are lots of different ways to treat someone with respect and a good partner does all of them.
Being a good person in a relationship means respecting your partner as a person and also respecting their opinions, beliefs, and values. It means recognizing that they are an equal partner in the relationship and that their feelings are just as important and valid as your own.
The first step to becoming a better person in your relationship is to find out what your partner wants and needs from you - and what they’re not currently getting. This means making it as easy as possible for them to give you their honest feelings about how you treat them and how the relationship is going.
I’ll be honest. This is scary. When you open up to honest feedback, you’re going to hear at least some things that don’t feel good. Being brave enough to open up and listen without becoming defensive goes a long way toward building trust in your relationship and gives you the tools to be a better partner.
We also can’t expect our partners to tell us everything that they want out of the relationship. We should also be looking to understand our partner and their needs. Being curious about your partner helps you learn about them and it also shows them that they’re important to you.
There are different ways to be curious about your partner. Talking about the things that matter to them and asking questions shows that you’re engaged and can help you to understand them better. Rather than focusing on things or actions, try asking about their emotions.
If your partner has just taken part in a soccer game, for example, asking about the score is ok. It shows that you care, but you’re not going to find out much about your partner from that. Asking “How did you feel about the game?” or “What was the highlight for you?” is much more personal and meaningful.
It’s also good to learn your partner’s subtle signs. In general, I’m not a fan of ‘signs’ or ‘sending signals’. I prefer to talk openly and honestly about what’s going on. But learning the signs that your partner is uncomfortable or unhappy is a valuable skill.
I prefer to think of these signals as ‘clues’. They’re not telling me what’s going on. They’re just giving me a head up that I should look deeper.
Try to notice when your partner seems a little bit ‘off’ and ask them about what’s going on. Don’t assume that you know what they’re thinking or feeling. Ask and show them that you’re open to talking about it.
Another common feature of great partners in romantic relationships is that they’re actively looking for ways to look after themselves and get their own needs met. Looking for ways to promote your own wellbeing means that you’re bringing more strength and optimism into your relationship.
Notice that I’m not saying that you should deal with all of your own problems. Part of being in a healthy relationship is that you can share your burdens, and trying to deal with everything alone isn’t going to make you a better partner. Instead, I’m suggesting that you should be actively looking for ways to look after yourself.
If you know that you’re feeling unhappy, come to your partner with some suggestions for things that will cheer you up. If you’re stressed with work, think of ways that you can relax or reduce your stress.
Being honest with our partner is the most important way to build trust between you. Even small lies that feel unimportant can erode the trust between you, so make sure that you’re as honest as possible.
Being honest doesn’t have to mean being brutally honest, though. You can be both honest and kind at the same time.
Let’s look at an example. Let’s suppose that your partner has invited you to dinner with their parents but you really don’t want to go.
If you want to be a better person in your relationship, you need to make sure that you’re devoting enough time to the person you love. Strong, deep relationships develop when we spend time together, talking about the things that matter to us and sharing experiences.
Set time aside specifically to spend with your partner. Make that time a priority. When you’re in a relationship with someone you trust, it’s easy to assume that they’ll understand if you have to cancel time spent with them. They probably will, but that doesn’t mean that your relationship won’t pay a price.
When you dedicate time to your partner, treat that time as sacred. Put it in your calendar and stick to it. That will show your partner that they’re a priority for you.
We all think that we listen to the people we care about, but few of us actually do. In conversations, most people spend the time that the other person is talking thinking about what they’re going to say next. They’re not really focusing on the other person or properly listening to them.
Be a better partner by practicing active listening. Active listening is when you really focus on the other person and pay attention to what they’re saying. Ask your partner questions to make sure you properly understand their position and show that you really care.
As well as trying to understand your partner’s thoughts and feelings, being a better partner also means sharing your feelings with them. Open up to them about what’s going on for you and let them see what you’re thinking and feeling.
This can mean opening up about things that make you uncomfortable, being honest about your likes and dislikes, or sharing things that bring you joy. Your words and actions are visible to everyone. Sharing your thoughts and feelings is private and intimate.
We often turn to the person we love for support and help, especially when things are going badly. This can sometimes leave them feeling drained or upset on your behalf. Make sure that you share your positive experiences with your partner to help build a better relationship.
Another valuable thing that we can all do to be a better partner in a relationship is to actively look for ways that we can make the other person’s life easier. Being there for them and doing the things they ask you to is great, but noticing an area where you can make a difference and offering is even better.
Looking for ways to help your partner shows them that you’re really thinking about them. It can also be really important if your partner feels awkward or uncomfortable asking for help.
I’ve already mentioned that self-awareness is an important part of being a good partner. This means paying attention to your own mental health and wellbeing.
Remember that understanding your own mental health doesn’t have to be focused around problems or mental illness. Focus on the “health” part of your mental health. What cheers you up? How can you recharge when you’re exhausted? What is your attachment style and what does that mean for your relationship?
The more you understand yourself, the easier it is to be a good partner.
Being a better partner doesn’t mean that you’re never going to make mistakes or upset your partner. Getting it wrong sometimes is inevitable. Rather than trying to be perfect, focus on learning how to properly make amends.
A great apology has several key ingredients. You need to acknowledge the things that you did wrong and the effect it had on your partner. You also need to apologize for your actions and the hurt they caused. Finally, it’s usually helpful to explain what you will do differently in future.
The most important thing, though, is always that you have to mean it.
Being able to offer a genuine, heartfelt apology that shows your partner that you understand and reassures them that you’re not going to do it again goes a long way toward fixing problems in your relationship.
Finally, one of the simplest things you can do to change yourself for the better in your relationship is to keep asking yourself one simple question; Am I being kind right now?
Kindness is absolutely essential in a relationship, but it’s easy to fall into habits or behavior patterns that aren’t entirely kind. Even if you’re not being actively unkind, you might be able to see ways to bring more kindness into your relationship.
It’s relatively easy to ask whether you’re being kind when things are going well, but what about when you’re annoyed or in the middle of an argument? Being kind is even more important when you’re unhappy with each other or frustrated.
Being a better partner means not lashing out at the person you love. It’s also better for you. Saying something during an argument that you regret or are ashamed of isn’t good for your self-esteem. You feel ashamed and embarrassed by your actions and guilty that you hurt your partner.
Prioritizing kindness during an argument is better for both of you. It’s a huge sign to your partner that they are safe with you, both physically and emotionally. It also means that you can always be proud of yourself and the way you treat the people around you.
Being kind doesn’t mean that you can’t disagree. Saying “I can’t believe you think that. You’re so stupid” is cruel and hurtful. Saying “I don’t agree with you, but I’d like to understand more about your position and why you feel that way” is disagreeing in a kind, respectful, and collaborative way.
There are many reasons you might not feel like you’re good enough for your partner. Some of them are ‘objective’, such as you let them down badly. Others come from low self-esteem. Your partner gets to decide what’s good enough for them. Focus on being kind and loving.
Just asking the question of how you can be a better person in your relationship is a great start when it comes to working on yourself. The next step is to talk to your partner about what they need and to really listen carefully to what they would like from you.
Being a better partner doesn’t have to be difficult and you don’t always have to make huge changes. Being consistent is far more important. Don’t go for big gestures or gifts. Instead, set aside a little time each day to listen and connect with your partner.
No relationship is completely perfect. Even the happiest of relationships can benefit from both people trying to be a better partner. Thinking about your partner’s needs and being emotionally present in your relationship can make a huge difference.
If we all work on being better people in our relationships, the world will be a kinder and more loving place. Share this article and share the love. And let me know in the comments if you have any other ideas for how to step up and make a difference in your relationship.