I posted this a few years ago, however it is always good, as we approach a new year, to improve the ways we approach our relationships.
With the New Year, people often take the opportunity to re-evaluate who they are and consider the changes they’d like to make in their lives. This is something people would benefit from doing year round — reflecting on the choices we make, the way we treat others, and our commitment to self-care.
One of the mistakes people often make in their relationships is attempting to change their partner. Eventually, they end up realizing that the more they push their partner to change, the more resistant their partner becomes to that change. One of the secrets of a successful relationship is for each partner to continue to improve, both as a person and as a partner. If each person make the effort to be a good partner, the relationship takes care of itself. You each focus on taking care of each other, rather than worrying about how the other should take care of you.
Trouble can surface when one partner feels entitled to positive treatment without reciprocating. If one partner is putting in the effort to strengthen the relationship, and the other partner isn’t doing likewise, the one who’s making all the effort will burn out, become frustrated, and eventually tire of the relationship. It’s important to realize that no matter a person’s view on relationships, entitlement is going to damage a relationship. If all (or the vast majority of) the effort is one way, then there is no relationship. Both partners have needs and desires that must to be met in order for a relationship to function smoothly.
So, as the New Year dawns, here are some ways to be a better partner and strengthen your relationship:
1) Communicate This is usually at the top of most lists when it comes to relationship skills. Communicate both the positives and the negatives (people often only focus on learning to communicate negatives). Communication is for making our needs and desires understood, our frustrations known, and also relaying our appreciation and affection.
2) Do one thing every day to make your partner smile If you know your partner, you know what can make him or her smile. If you don’t know, pay attention to likes and desires. These can be simple things like a phone call to say “I love you,” a special note, or a warm gesture, such as making breakfast.
3) Do a household chore every day Believe it or not, household chores can lead to breakups. Partners start blaming each other for all the untended chores, and it becomes a power standoff that unnecessarily escalates. Do a chore (or two) daily, whether or not the mess is only yours. Since dishes are a daily chore in themselves, couples often like to rotate — each day the dishes switches to the other partner, and the other one undertakes a different household chore. So on those non-dishes days, clean the bathroom, do the laundry, water the plants, vacuum, take out the trash, etc. If you can each do one chore every day, this could both prevent arguments, and strengthen your partnership at home (and make your home a nicer place).
4) Take your partner on a date once a month Doing this would automatically give you two dates per month (whether or not you have children, this would be a worthwhile goal). Make it a date based on your partner’s likes, and also make sure to try new things together. Enjoy being with each other.
5) Give your partner space for weekly self-care This is generally more difficult for couples who have children. Be willing to take parental duties for a block of time once each week so your partner can have some time to do something meaningful for himself or herself.
6) Listen to your partner Sometimes your partner needs to talk. Actively listen with undivided attention and be interested in what your partner has to say. This valuable attention goes a long way toward increasing connection in a relationship.
7) Touch your partner Affection can easily become overlooked when a couple is busy with work, parenting, or just generally has other matters to attend to. Make an effort to put your hands on your partner daily. And I’m not referring to sexually groping your partner. Touch your partner’s shoulder, rub his back, massage her neck and shoulders, put a hand on his leg, etc. Becoming sexual isn’t off limits, by any means, but that isn’t the goal of this. The goal is affectionate contact with your partner. A loving touch can be very soothing.
8) Compliment your partner Even if compliments can seem tired, they’re really not. Be positive goes a long way in a relationship, and, generally, the longer the relationship, the more expressing compliments pays off. How special is it after many years that your partner can still look at you and say, “I really like your hair like that,” or, “Those pants look great on you,” etc.?
There are many other ways to become a better partner. If you think of some, make note of them and bring them into your relationship. Though I left sex off of the list, remember that increasing the mutual generosity in your overall relationship increases the likelihood of attraction and sex. The overall goal is to treat your partner the way you want to be treated. If you can both look out and care for each other, you’ll each receive the love you desire and your relationship as a whole will benefit.