So here I am thinking about relationships and how to be a good partner. How to be a good man in a relationship. Fair warning I am single. I am terrible at starting relationships. At heart I am rather reserved and inherently shy – and well that just don’t fly with the ladies. My version of badass is adding extra hot-sauce to the chili I just cooked.
So without further sad puppy delay, here are my life lessons of being a good partner:
All couples fight. Conflict is part of a healthy dynamic and growing relationship. Successful couples do not fight less, they simply fight fair. Adults in a relationship communicate their own feelings and needs, and ask about their partner’s feelings and needs. Adults do not judge their partner feelings and thoughts as faulty. Now yes it is true that in a relationship women are more likely to bring up problems for discussion, while men are more likely to withdraw at the first hint of conflict. And when a man turtles, then women tend to move the subject toward a critical note, which simply makes things worse. In a fair fight, avoid personal attacks especially ones armed with a “you” statements —“You’re so inconsiderate!” “We’re going to be late because of you!”—which lead to defensive responses and counter-attacks. Whenever possible stick to “I-statements,” such as “When (this happens), I feel (frustrated, angry). What I needed was…”
Your Partner isn’t Your Child
Partners need to speak as equals – no matter how much of an expert one thinks they might be! Mansplaining is not required. Talking down to a partner will create resentment! Never ever belittle what your partner feel/thinks/values. If we make the other feel inadequate, we threaten their independence and sense of self. We all hate feeling like we are being managed/monitored – how much worse is that feeling when it is supposed to be someone that loves and respects us? That doesn’t mean we cannot have boundaries that we should expect our partners to respect – but it means we need to be clear about those ahead of time and we need to respect each others boundaries!
Ask Your Partner for Advice
If you want your partner to trust you – tell them honestly what you are feeling/thinking and ask for their input and advice. If you learned your partner was asking/telling other people about personal thoughts/feelings they hadn’t shared with you – might you not think you are not a priority in the relationship?
Show Appreciation for What Your Partner Does
Most of us won’t ask for it but we all enjoy a dose of well-deserved praise. We each need to feel our partner is proud of us and they see our contribution to the relationship. Yes men do tend to be more act-focused in displaying affection; and women tend to be more verbal and touch oriented. Taking an action for another – be it putting away the dishes/laundry, leaving out a cup of tea, or making dinner, these are all acts of affection and kindness for another. Just as a touch on the arm can be a sign of connection, doing small things is a way of showing care for another. Acknowledge those acts, and remember to say please and thank you!
Always be Open to Physical Affection
In general women require a sense of emotional intimacy to engage in physical love, while men generally express emotional intimacy through physical acts. In both cases the physical connection can overcome emotional disconnection. Turning away from a partner’s physical touch can feel like emotional rejection. Sex should never be expected/demanded as a right of a relationship – but physical intimacy of touch, hugs, holding hands are required to maintain emotional intimacy! Sitting knee to knee while talking over a tough issue can keep you connected to each other’s anxiety levels and remind you that you do indeed love this stubborn mule who shares your life!
Don’t Try to Change Each Other
Humans are not redecorating challenges! Any person can change, but no one appreciates being forced to change. In fact (as cliché as it is…) we can only make real change by changing ourselves! Any relationship in which a partner cannot be themselves, is a relationship that will fail. No one wants to feel that they have to pretend to be something they are not – sometimes you have to accept that your partner is just “that way” and remember the things you enjoy about your partner! Communicate openly and honestly about your needs – just remember your partner has needs and
Finances are the number one source of disagreement in any relationship! Generally this is because spending a large amount of money affects how you will spend your time, and what other choices you are able to make as a couple. Anything that affects the other partner will impact the affection you have for each other! If you are partners then you need to be aware of each others choices, and as much as possible share the making of those choices.
Seeking and granting forgiveness strengthens relationships, and in the long-term leads to greater satisfaction in one’s partner. BUT apologizing cannot be empty words. Saying I am sorry is not enough. An apology must show understanding of why the partner was upset and an acceptance of responsibility for what was done. A true apology always acknowledges harm. And the last part in healing is asking “how can I make this better?”. When an apology is sincere and forgiveness is given, then that means all sides must let go of the past – no dredging it up in a list of “past sins sinned” (See Fight Fair).
Turn to One Another
The concept of “turning to the other” is put forward by many relationship coaches. It is contained in each of the earlier points but I wanted to state it explicitly. At its core the act of “turning to the other” shows the need for the partner AND displays vulnerability to the partner. The natural response when we are show vulnerability by the one we love – is to protect and cherish that vulnerability. It is the cat showing you his belly. And yes a cruel partner may just gut you – but then that means you need a new partner!
The most important part of any relationship is communication. Communication is not a passive activity, but one that requires active engagement of all parties to the conversation. One person talking is not communication – it is a broadcast.
If you want your relationships to last and grow stronger then you need to do this!
Repeat each part as required.
And as my full disclosure shows keep in mind I am a single (aging!) man who hasn’t had an intimate relationship in years. Those who can do – those who can’t write up pointless blogs!