Let’s be honest here: when it comes to relationships, long-term can be tough. According to Statista, the marriage rate per thousand people in the U.S. in 2019 was 6.9, a major drop from 9.8 in the 90s. You may be thinking, “Okay, that’s because people are busier, smarter, and have less societal or family pressure to be married off.” This could be true, but let’s also look at divorce rates. A very common misconception is that the divorce rate in the U.S. is on the rise. The truth is far from that—the divorce rate has actually been decreasing since the 80s. Among the factors in this success is recognizing how to be a better partner.
If you’ve ever lived with someone, you know that it is never, ever going to be roses and romance at all times. While you and your chosen partner get on with your life together, life happens; kids, mortgage, job stresses, career ladders, a happy sex life (a whole friggin LIFE?!?!) and you just might find yourself having a rough day that turns into a rough week that just might turn into a rough couple of years for your relationship.
To make a marriage or long-term partnership work, you’ve got to be ready to put in work. When people talk about being a committed partner, they’re not simply talking about being committed to your partner; it’s a commitment to the relationship and a commitment to putting in the toil to keep it going. At times, a relationship can feel like a chore, and it will be worth the extra work and effort to get to those times when it doesn’t feel like toil. It’s about taking the bitter and the sweet.
They say that a mind that isn’t curious is a mind that lacks life and vitality. If you’re no longer asking questions and staying curious about your partner, it doesn’t mean that you know everything about them – far from it. Can anyone ever know everything about another person? Certainly not.
Of course, hanging out with a friend who never asks you questions about what you think and even worse – doesn’t even care – sucks. When you first met, you had a drive to learn everything about your partner; remember that? No matter how much you think you might know each other, keep asking questions and listening to the answers. You’ll be surprised how much more there is to learn about each other.
Sure, a grand gesture on Valentine’s day or remembering and celebrating birthdays and anniversaries are all well and good, but what about the in-between times? Nobody expects you to be 100% there and present day in and day out, but keep your partner’s needs in mind more often than just on the big marquee days of romance and love. Get their car cleaned for them, pick up some of their favorite magazines or treat them to a little something something to simply show that you’re thinking about them and their wants/needs.
Take care not to get caught up in the little things so much that you forget to add in a romantic gesture every now and again. And no, we’re not talking about flowers or candlelit dinners; you know what makes your partner swoon, so use some of those wooing methods that you used to snag them in the first place.
One thing you should really take away from all of these rules is that a huge part of being a good partner is doing things that in no way benefit you, rather focus solely on your partner. It’s not a great analogy, but consider it like you’re applying for the job you already have; keep reminding your partner why you’re the right person for their affection.
You would think this one is easy, but if it was, there wouldn’t be an entire industry of self help literature and couples’ therapy devoted to it. Many is the sexual relationship that goes quietly into that good night, all because one or both partners decided that doing nothing was better than some honesty and possible discomfort. But to keep a semblance of your shared sex life alive, both of you need to engage in serious sexual discussions together. If you are not communicating as a couple, what chance do you even have in the first place?
Take your partner’s sexual needs seriously, and they should reciprocate. And don’t forget that some healthy variety will always add some much-needed spice to keep things interesting. Sex toys are an absolute must in a long-term relationship, not only as some of the aforementioned spice, but also as an assist in getting your partner off. And when it comes to sex toys made specifically for couples to use together, there’s more than enough variety to keep things muy caliente!
Being open doesn’t necessarily equate to simply being honest. Honesty when you’re confronted and made to tell the truth is all well and good, but openness is your ability to share what you’re feeling and thinking with your partner without the need for prompting. For guys, this can be a little harder as young men are taught not to be vulnerable, however this is a behavior that can be overcome, and really should be for the purposes of a worthwhile relationship.
Oftentimes our biggest regrets are tied to moments in which we overreacted and said something that there was no coming back from, even if we didn’t mean it. We’re human, and sometimes we know how to strike someone where it hurts if we’re feeling attacked. If an argument with your partner gets to your tipping point, take a deep breath and walk away. You need those moments to yourself to put your feet back on the ground and your thoughts back into reality. An important skill in life is owning up to the behaviors you control and acknowledging the ones you cannot.
We don’t need to sugarcoat it, relationships come with a lot of ups and downs, and moving from losses to gains is psychologically difficult. An analysis by UC Davis found that in general, moving from losses to gains is over 30% more difficult than moving from gains to losses. Our fundamental view of the world naturally shifts towards negative, so we have to work to see the upside. An easy exercise to do so is discussing things you’re grateful for or rehearsing good news to your partner. Even though your partner should be your rock, avoid venting because it often causes us to forget to mention the positives.
A study also suggests that giving compliments not only boosts your partner’s self-esteem, but your own. How? It fulfills our need to feel important along with our need to be loved. Giving genuine compliments makes your partner like you more, which means you’ll reap the benefits of being liked, like forgiveness and support.
We’re not talking about picking up the check at dinner or springing for tickets to whatever movie or show you and your partner go to (although that’s not a bad start), it’s a different kind of generosity we have in mind. One commodity that’s in even greater demand than money is time, and it’s even more valuable because you can’t get it back. Of course, it’s always in short supply, however some of the time you’d be spending scrolling through socials on your phone or getting into another session on Fortnite will mean so much more to your partner if it’s just devoted to them.
Stay a Liiiiiittle Bit Selfish
This list has gone over the myriad of ways your time and effort should be devoted to your partner, however some aspects of your relationship will benefit from you being happy. You’ve got to take care of yourself in order to be the kind of person that your partner deserves to be with. The things you want to do, like scrolling socials or getting in some Fortnite with your friends, as mentioned, will keep you in the right headspace that you won’t feel smothered. Your passions are as valid as theirs, and should be pursued. If you’re supporting your partner pursuing their happiness, they’ll be supportive of you in turn.