33 Ways To Be A Better Partner

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33 Ways To Be A Better Partner

Words by Ms Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff

18 July 2023

A good romantic relationship is, above all else, a constant learning experience. Over time, you discover your partner’s likes and dislikes, you discern what you need and what they need. Essentially, you must learn how to function as a unit. But, in a long-term relationship, it can be easy to become passive or take things for granted. Or, in a new relationship, to start off on the wrong foot by not being conscientious. Want to avoid some of the biggest relationship pitfalls? Read our list below on the ways in which you can be a better partner, no matter where you are in your romantic journey.


Cultivate self-awareness

A good relationship starts with you. “Learning how to be a better partner requires you to look inward,” says Ms Sharnade George, a psychotherapist and the CEO of Cultureminds Therapy. “You need to know how to control your own emotions and behaviours.”

This could mean learning self-regulation techniques such as breathwork, stating positive affirmations on days when you’re feeling low or practising mindfulness.



“People who listen to each other and let each other speak stand out to me,” says Ms Georgina Lawton, an author who writes about conflicts in relationships for The Guardian. “I’ve been on calls when the man speaks over the woman, or vice versa. When people do genuinely listen to each other it really helps their relationship.”

As much as possible, she encourages partners to look each other in the eyes and not to interrupt. Active listening means listening attentively, reflecting and responding to what is said without judgement.


Practice honesty

While most people admit to having lied to a romantic partner, aspiring to be more honest with the people we love can be transformative. A 2012 study found that when people were more honest, they often felt better about their relationships and were in better health, too. Speaking straightforwardly and communicating your emotions, both good and bad, is a good place to start.


Know your conflict style

There are as many ways to approach conflict as there are snowflakes. “Do you like to air it all out and find solutions in one conversation?” says Mr Brent Phillips, a self-styled men’s coach, who shares advice on TikTok. “Do you prefer to write it all out and avoid difficult conversations in person? From there you can work on finding a compromise. Once you know your style, work with your partner on learning their approach.”


Don’t make it personal

“A phrase I treasure is ‘attack behaviours, not people’,” Phillips says. “Address problematic behaviours by expressing how they made you feel. Instead of saying, ‘You don’t care about me’, describe the behaviour in question, then explain the feelings that it invoked. The goal is to help them understand unintentional harm caused.”


Argue constructively

“Conflict in a relationship is inevitable,” George says. “The main goal is to not win or lose an argument, but develop a new mindset that can help you both grow together instead of becoming distant.”

George suggests focusing on your feelings and validating your partner’s experiences.


Write it down

“Sometimes, a good way to make up after an argument is not to have the conversation in person,” says couples therapist Ms Joanna Harrison, the author of Five Arguments All Couples (Need To) Have. She suggests texting or even writing a letter to your partner. “It gives everyone a bit more space, which sometimes is needed so that the feelings don’t rise up again.”


Speak with kindness

“Disagreeing with each other, but still being polite and empathetic enough to hear your partner’s disagreement and let them voice it always bodes well,” Lawton says. “Lace disagreement with kindness.”

Studies suggest that the more people receive or witness kindness, the more kind they will be to themselves – which can only mean good things for your relationship.


Try trust

A lack of trust in relationships can be corrosive. Giving your partner the benefit of the doubt allows forgiveness. Trust exercises to try with your partner could include sharing long-held secrets or trying out the much-lauded technique of “eye-gazing”, which is said to help synchronise brain activity between partners.


Don’t give 50/50

“We all have this idea of relationships being 50/50, when actually we need to see it as just 100,” says psychotherapist Ms Nikita Amin. “If one person can only give 20 per cent that day, the partner picks up the other 80 per cent.”


Wake up to gender dynamics

This one is tough because gender roles are often deeply ingrained and highly socialised. But, if you’re in a heterosexual relationship and haven’t given a thought to the gender dynamics at play between you and your partner, perhaps you’re due a conversation.

Women and cis female folk have consistently been shown to do the vast majority of both emotional and domestic labour in heterosexual households,” says writer and sex therapist Ms Gigi Engle. Do some research, talk to your partner and see if you can’t be part of the change in your relationship.


Be a self-aware parent

“When you become a parent, have an honest conversation with your partner about what you’re longing to repair from your own childhood, or what you’re longing to protect,” Harrison says. “Couples often clash over those feelings. Suddenly you feel really strongly about something that relates to your own history that your partner really doesn’t, whether it’s manners or discipline. You have to negotiate your different ideas.”


Model resolution

“Parents who can model resolving everyday conflict is super helpful for children to learn that someone can say, without blaming, I find this difficult, I don’t agree with you and this is why,” Harrison says. “And then listens to their partner’s side of it. I don’t think that parents have to feel the same way.”


Consider your values

“Values are the measures people feel are desirable, vital, worthwhile and useful,” George says. “They influence how you think, feel, perform and behave. When showing you care about your partner’s values, you can encourage them in all areas and help them grow mentally, physically and spiritually.”

This could mean respecting their decision to attend church, because they value their religion, or helping them look after an ailing family member in a time of need, because they value hands-on support.


Talk about finances

There isn’t just one way to handle finances in a relationship, and what works for one pairing might not work for others. But research shows that couples who take the time to talk about their finances are happier than those who don’t. A recent study also found that couples who merged their money in a joint bank account saw an increase in relationship quality over time. “Ongoing conversations are a must; set aside a dedicated time for a ‘financial date night’,” said the author of the study, Ms Jenny Olson.


Highlight their strengths

“The people who don’t magnify each other’s flaws stand out to me,” Lawson says. “I always remember those who highlight the negative points, but counteract them with something positive. It makes for a good relationship.”


Live for yourself

“If you’re solely living for your partner and the relationship that you’ve created together, you will get lost in that relationship,” Amin says. “I really like going for walks. I love being outdoors. I like hiking. I like the adventure stuff – and my husband hates it. I do it with my friends and family instead.”


Plan for time away

Harrison views the time couples spend apart as “very powerful”. However, she thinks that becoming attuned to what the separation means for your partnership is essential.

She suggests discussing the time apart in advance. “You could say: I’m going off on a trip or this weekend I’m doing something really fun for myself,” she says. “How should we plan for that?”


Plan your urges

Cheating is one of the leading causes of breakups and divorces. “Cheating is usually a symptom of something else,” Engle says. “If you’re thinking about cheating on your partner, you need to look at what’s happening in the relationship that’s causing you to feel that way.”

This may be easier said than done, but tackling problems in a relationship before things cross the line will likely save you both time, money and heartache.


Consider ethical non-monogamy

It won’t work for everyone, but traditional partnerships are not the only way to structure a relationship. “You can be in love with more than one person,” Engle says. “You can want to have sex with more than one person. That doesn’t mean your partnership isn’t important to you. Having expansive, loving, philosophical conversations about non-monogamy can be really helpful. And seeing a sex therapist can help, too.”


Learn their stressors

“Learn what stresses your partner out,” Phillips says. “What are the little things that make them anxious or upset? It could be a sink full of dishes, using drinks without a coaster or even particular words and phrases.”

You don’t have to agree that these things are stressful, but acknowledging them and avoiding behaviours or habits that irritate them – perhaps especially if they mean nothing to you – will go a long way towards creating harmony.


Communicate your screentime

Research suggests that “technoference” (AKA screen time) can have a negative impact on romantic relationships. While Harrison thinks there are many benefits to our use of tech, she suggests that partners take the time to signal expectations around how long they’re spending on their devices. “For example, saying, I’m just nipping onto my phone for five minutes,” she says. “Don’t worry, I’m not going on it for two hours.”


Show up

“Being reliable, being dependent, being somebody who your partner can lean on and count on, will be a huge factor in having a stronger relationship,” Engle says. “Showing up when you say you will creates a much stronger and more secure attachment.”

That might mean attending events or dates with them or just sitting on the couch and listening when they need support. Either way, being available for your partner is simple but important.


Prioritise your partner’s priorities

“My most important piece of advice would be to repeat the mantra, ‘If it is important to you, it is important to me’,” Phillips says. “Make your partner’s priorities your own.”

Putting laundry away? Saving money for a vacation? Picking the kids up from school? “By making their needs important to me, I show them they are important, they are heard and that their wellbeing is important to me, no matter how trivial the task may seem.”


Check in

“Being more thoughtful in your interactions with your partner involves checking in with them,” George says. She highlights the work of relationship theorist Dr John M Gottman, who uses the exercise tool “love map building”.

“It involves couples staying curious about each other, asking each other questions to explore their world and taking notice of the little things,” George says.


Be intimate

Psychologist Professor Erik Erikson argued that it is vital for us to establish intimate relationships as part of healthy development. “Greater intimacy may lead to greater passion or commitment,” George says.

It doesn’t just have to be confined to sex. It can be found in smaller moments of attentiveness, cuddling, comfortable self-expression and, perhaps most importantly, vulnerability. As Erikson said, “An intimate relationship is not necessarily a physical relationship.”


Schedule sex

Yes, it might not sound all that romantic, but it certainly is practical – especially if you’ve been in a relationship for a long time. Research by the University of York found that scheduled sex can be just as satisfying as spontaneous sex. “The intentionality behind it can be transformative in the sense that we don’t wait around for the right moment, because sometimes the mood just never strikes,” said the author of the study, Ms Katarina Kovacevic.


Create a bucket list

“Create a couple’s bucket list,” George says. “Be free in what you decide to write down and ensure it’s a reflection of both of you so that you can grow and learn more about each other, alongside creating wonderful memories.”

Things to put on your bucket list could include everything from once-in-a-lifetime holidays to the Galápagos Islands to going back to the place you first met for a night of reminiscing.


Recognise special occasions

“Jot down their favourite foods, candies and gifts,” Phillips says. “If they buy items they need to replace, think skincare or expendable items related to a hobby or interest, add them to the list. Then once special occasions roll around, such as birthdays or holidays, or even just a regular Tuesday, you’ll have a ready-made list of thoughtful gifts you’ve collected over the year to surprise them with.”


Practice acceptance

“Acceptance is everything,” Amin says. “Everyone is different. Everyone’s come from different backgrounds, different religions, different cultures. And you’re not going to all think the same. Not every contradiction we come across needs to be an argument or a tarnish in your relationship.”

Amin cites love language as a good example. “Your partner’s love language might not be the same as yours,” she says. “If you can’t accept that, the relationship is always going to have its cracks.”


Go to couple’s therapy

“You should go to therapy if there are lots of arguments with no resolutions,” Amin says. “You can argue and make up but that doesn’t mean you resolve the issue. It just means you’ve swept it under the rug. Maybe it’s time to actively hear each other. The only way to do that, if you can’t do it at home, would be in a therapeutic space.”


Remember why

“Remember all the reasons why you fell for them in the first place,” Phillips says. “Find ways to share those with your partner often.”


Let them go

Not all relationships need to last for ever. Sometimes the kindest thing you can do for yourself or your partner is to make a break. “We have this misconception in society that finding a romantic partner is the ultimate goal for everybody,” Engle says. “If you have a romantic partner, you’re supposed to just tough it out and make a relationship work. But sometimes coming to a natural conclusion and letting someone go is the most loving thing you can do.”