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Six Ways to Better Yourself…and Your Partner

Inspiring your partner to “greatness” is not rocket science. To paraphrase the wisdom of The Golden Rule: Simply be the partner you want to have.

Here are six ways to begin:

1. Say yes. From the moment in adolescence when we start caring what other boys or girls think of us, the word “yes” becomes a kind of romantic Holy Grail we seek like questing knights. We want to hear, “Yes, I’ll go to the dance with you. Yes, we should hang out. Yes, I like you too.” It is the clearest sign that we are worth something. Yet as we get older, a mindless habit of negativity often sets in. Along the way we learn to resist one another for no apparent reason. Who knows why? The point is, if you want your partner to be more affirming and positive, try going with the flow yourself more often. Practice the magical power of “yes.”

2. Say no when you must … but lovingly and respectfully. Of course, there are times when “yes” is the wrong answer, period. There is nothing magical about failing to protect your boundaries and your autonomy. But it is equally important that, when you have reason to disagree with your partner, you do so in a way that safeguards their dignity. Too many relationships are poisoned by a “no” that is unnecessarily harsh or mocking. Guard against giving them the idea that they are being scolded. Respect is contagious, so give it freely and it will come back to you.

3. Be loyal. Okay, that sounds like a Girl Scout motto. But too many women and men take any opportunity to trash talk their partners around friends and family, sometimes even when they’re present. If you have developed that harmful habit, cut it out. No one enjoys public criticism. If you have something on your mind, talk to them—in private. They are sure to notice and reward you for it, by giving you the same courtesy.

4. Loosen up. Feeling caged by too little freedom in a relationship will bring out the lion in anyone. Preempt the problem by giving them plenty of space. That is not to say you should have no expectations of them, especially as the relationship advances. But heavy-handed possessiveness is a great way to put anyone on the defensive. When you keep a light touch, they’ll relax, and so can you.

5. Give them a push. There comes a time in nearly every person’s life when the dream that propelled them forward seems to be receding further out of reach. Maybe he or she has faltered. Maybe they are stuck in the daily grind of life. Maybe they’ve gotten plain ol’ lazy. Then it’s time for you to give them a gentle nudge—or a firm shove—by reminding them of their terrific potential. Believe the best about them, and tell them so.

6. Listen. Paying attention to what your partner has to say is one of the highest possible expressions of romantic affection. Most of us go through the day relatively unnoticed and unheard—by bosses, co-workers, even friends and family members. Be the exception in their life. Listen, and show them you are deeply interested in who they are and what they care about.