We are constantly striving to be fitter, healthier, to learn new things, to improve ourselves mentally and physically, and yet many of us fail to give our full attention on one extremely important aspect of our lives: relationships.
You may have read up on some sex tips, possibly even on how to avoid arguments, but when was the last time you thought about or implemented any methods to simply be a better partner?
Striving to improve what you bring to the table, in terms of your relationship, doesn’t just make your other half feel loved and appreciated, it also rubs off on you. “Looking at how you communicate, behave and respond to your partner and then trying to improve it will naturally lead to you feeling better too,” says relationship counsellor David Waters.
“Not only are you likely to feel more positive about yourself, your partner’s response will also make you feel good. It’s a win-win.” So here’s what you can do.
Take a step back
The first step is actually a step backwards. “Taking a step back from your relationship and viewing it as someone looking in can be helpful in recognising what could do with improvement,” says Waters.
Ask yourself some questions: are you both happy within the relationship? what does the relationship give you or your partner that they couldn’t have without it? What more do you think you could get from the relationship with a bit more effort? Is there anything you or your partner does that brings you down or lowers the quality of your life?
Find out what could be causing problems in your relationship
Get to bed
It’s not time for sex (although that’s a great way to bond too!), it’s time for some rest. Research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology shows that sleep deprivation reduces glucose levels, which in turn makes you lose self control.
That means that a little mishap that might not bother you too much usually can make you lose your rag.
So get regular rest, take naps if necessary, to make sure you respond to your partner in a level-headed manner. Spending time in bed will also give you time to mull over all the ways you’re going to make an effort to be a better partner.
Quit the crazy dieting
You might believe that losing those last few pounds is key to feeling happier, but it could be having a negative influence on your relationship. Research from Bushman, DeWall, Pond, & Hanus, 2014 found that strict dieting can lead to more anger and aggression in a relationship.
There’s no need to quit dieting all together, just take it easy: eat healthily but without starving yourself and avoid diets that drastically reduce one type of food (such as a low-carb diet, for example).
Visit our weight loss section for healthy diet tips
Reassign the blame
It’s often all-too easy to name all the ways in which you believe your partner is to blame for shortcomings in your relationship. But let’s shift the focus here.
Research indicates that for everyday niggles (ie not abusive relationships) and problems, the most effective way to produce change is actually to change your behaviour first.
Find out how to stop arguing with your partner
The Behaviour List
Write out a list of these behaviours on your phone or write them down on a post-it note, just be sure to put them somewhere you can read them regularly to remind yourself. These seven maintenance behaviours have been shown to increase relationship satisfaction, love and commitment:
Your partner needs to know you enjoy being with them, so smile, say you feel happy or that you’re enjoying yourself, so they know for sure. And don’t forget the compliments! You may feel as though your partner knows you think they’re gorgeous or clever or funny or great, but we humans need these things spelled out sometimes. So don’t just think it, say it out loud!
Listen when your partner talks and don’t rush to make judgements or give advice, give them time to talk or express themselves.
Give your partner the feeling of security by talking about plans for the future or what the future may hold, remind him or her why you were attracted to him/her in the first place, why or how you fell in love, and why you still are now.
As you share your feelings about how you feel ask them to express themselves too, making it a two way process. Express your gratitude for their choosing to be with you rather than anyone else. Research published in journal Emotion shows that expressing gratitude out loud is linked to positive feelings about your partner.
Explain your needs or desires within your relationship, things you already feel you have and enjoy, and also thinks you might like.
6. Sharing tasks
As far as possible, make your relationship about teamwork. This doesn’t mean you have to do 50% of the same chores, but that you share various chores out equitably between you. So perhaps you cook and she does the dishes, or he cleans the bathroom and you vacuum the house. Make a list and share it in a way you both feel is fair.
7. Involve others
Spending time with others together can help shine a light on what you love about your relationship and areas that need improving.
Read our tips for reconnecting with your partner