There is so much misinformation out there about what it takes to be a great partner. It’s not about cooking his favorite food or wearing sexy lingerie or mastering some crazy sexual trick. (I’m not saying these things don’t help, but they don’t get to the heart of the matter!) Understanding how men think and what they need in a relationship makes an enormous difference in the way you’re able to relate to one another.
The top prerequisite for being in a great relationship is to be your best self. A trap that many people in relationships fall into is blaming their partner when problems arise. Rather than seeing what they can do to make things better, they blame him for not being what they want and think that if only he did XYZ, then everything would be fine.
It doesn’t work that way. You can’t ever make someone what you want them to be. All you can do is bring your best. When you do this, the other person will usually rise up and match you at your level.
Here are the most essential ways to be the most amazing partner ever:
Be Direct (Not Passive-Aggressive)
The majority of problems in a relationship occur because the woman expects a man to meet her needs and then resents him when he doesn’t. She doesn’t ask for what she wants because he should just “know.” She may drop hints to help him out and then become even more annoyed when he doesn’t pick up on them. The man, in turn, gets frustrated that nothing he does seems to be good enough. Eventually he gets discouraged and stops trying, and she feels even more resentful. Neither side has bad intentions; the problem is they aren’t communicating properly because men and women have very different styles of communication. Men do not pick up on nuances and subtleties in the same way women do; they need things spelled out in a clear and direct manner.
If you’re mad at him, don’t act passive-aggressive until he asks what’s wrong (to which you may reply “nothing,” which he’ll take to mean nothing is wrong, after which you’ll continue to simmer because he should freakin’ know it’s something!) Just tell him what he did wrong. In relationships it’s not usually what you say, it’s how you say it. If you tell a guy something he is doing is upsetting or hurting you, and you say it in a loving, compassionate way, I guarantee he will try to fix it. If you come from a place of anger or resentment, he’ll shut down and will be less motivated to correct it. Sigmund Freud is regarded as one of the most brilliant minds in psychology and even he had no idea what women want, so how do you expect the average guy to know?
Most arguments in relationships stem from deeper underlying issues that never get discussed or resolved. Maybe a woman feels like her guy doesn’t really care about her, or isn’t committed to her because he isn’t as attentive as he was in the beginning of the relationship. Instead of being direct about it, she freaks out on him if he doesn’t call her back one night or doesn’t do the dishes after she slaved away cooking dinner for him. From there a big fight may ensue over something trivial while the real issue goes untouched. When you want something, or don’t want something, just tell him.
Most women don’t realize how starved men are for appreciation; I certainly had no idea until I started writing about relationships full time. The problem is that we usually love others the way we like to be loved, and women typically feel loved when a man is being giving and attentive to her and her needs. Because of that, many women will be extra giving to their man. While this is very nice and appreciated, it’s not what men really crave.
What a man deeply desires is feeling acknowledged and appreciated for what he provides. He wants to feel like his efforts were a success. This applies to everything he does from taking you out to a fancy dinner to taking out the trash.
If he takes you out on a nice date, acknowledge and appreciate him for it and tell him you had an amazing time. Men are typically more responsive to compliments about something they’ve done rather than who they are, as I described in the previous section.
When a woman really sees and appreciates her man, it makes him feel like the ultimate winner and makes him want to do anything to keep her happy.
Another important relationship skill is to try to see the intention behind an action, and appreciate that. I have a personal example for this. Years ago I was dating a guy and one night he called and asked if he could come over. It was getting late and I was exhausted, but he said he’d be over in a half hour so I agreed. An hour and half later he still hadn’t arrived and I was fuming! Where could he be? Why is he even bothering to come over this late? Why do I have to wait up for him when I just need sleep! He finally showed up carrying something that smelled delicious. I immediately went off on him for making me wait up for him and he sheepishly said, “I’m sorry, I wanted to surprise you and bring over a quesadilla from that place you love because I know you’ve been working so hard and barely have time to eat.” Even though I was starving and had been fiending for a quesadilla, my anger had been building for an hour and didn’t subside, and the rest of the night was uncomfortable and tense.
The mistake I made was in looking at the action (him being late), rather than the intention (him wanting to do something nice to make me happy). I’m not saying I shouldn’t have been annoyed by his lateness, but the night probably would have gone a lot differently had I at least appreciated his good intentions…then later I could have nicely mentioned that the next time there was an hour-long line at the place, he should just buy me a bag of chips and call it a day!
No one is perfect and no matter how great your relationship, there will be times when he isn’t doing something exactly the way you’d like him to. You’ll get a lot further, and do a huge service to your relationship, if you focus on what he is doing right rather than focusing on what he isn’t.
Give Him Space When He Needs It
Another major difference between men and woman is in the way they handle stress and difficulties. While women typically seek out their friends and want to talk about it, men would rather retreat into the proverbial man cave and deal with it on their own. A woman might get upset when this happens and think he’s shutting her out, but it really has nothing to do with her—it’s just how he deals with things.
If your boyfriend seems stressed out and begins to withdraw, just let him be. Don’t coddle him or offer unsolicited advice or get on his case about why he isn’t confiding in you. If he wants to talk about it with you, he will. If he doesn’t and you continue to push him, you will just be another source of stress in his life that he needs to deal with, and he’ll withdraw even further.
Men intuitively know that it isn’t easy for women to give them space when they need it, so if you can do it without feeling angry or resentful, you’ll be the woman who touches him more deeply than any other.
Maintain Your Own Life outside of the Relationship
This tip isn’t just for his sake, it’s for yours. I swear sometimes I feel like I should throw a goodbye party when a friend of mine gets a boyfriend because she’ll literally fall off the map! I know I won’t be seeing her at Sunday brunches or fun nights out. She won’t want to come away with the girls for the weekend. Getting face time with her will never be easy, and eventually I’ll give up and resign myself to the fact that I’ll either see her again at her wedding or if she becomes single again (in which case, she’ll be back in full force and down for anything!)
It’s not just my friends; women make this mistake all the time (myself included!) They get into a relationship and the guy becomes the center of their universe. This is never healthy! For one thing, it kind of puts your relationship in a holding pattern and creates a scenario where you can be dating for years and years without taking the next step. If a guy is getting all of you, all the time, there’s no reason for him to take that extra step…but that’s a whole different discussion.
Another issue is that your relationship can’t be your only source of happiness and fulfillment; you need to have a balanced life with several components filling you up in different areas. If you throw all of that away for your guy, then you add a lot of pressure to the relationship and will never feel completely satisfied with what you’re getting from it (mostly because no one can be your everything). You may start to resent your partner and feel that he owes you more since you gave up so much for him, but that’s not fair because the sacrifices you made were your choice. Another reason not maintaining your own life outside of the relationship is problematic is that you may end up staying in a bad relationship for far longer than you should because, well, you have nothing else to go back to.
Men typically fall in love with a woman in her absence, not her presence. If you’re always there he won’t experience that deepening of the bond. To keep your relationship fresh and invigorating, it’s essential to have time apart to do your own things. It gives you a break from the emotional intoxication of the relationship so you can see things more objectively, and it also takes some pressure off of the relationship and allows it to unfold more organically. I know it’s tempting to hang out with him every time he asks, I know it’s flattering when a guy wants so much of your time, I know you may think it’s because he is just so crazy about you…and maybe he is, but giving in every single time is just not a good strategy. If he’s a decent guy, he’ll respect your boundaries and will encourage you to do your own thing on occasion.
Take Care of Yourself
Don’t stop working out, eating healthy, getting waxed, shaving your legs, blow-drying your hair, or any other healthy or beautifying activity that was a part of your life pre-relationship. Yes, it’s easy to slide into a more laissez-faire approach when you’re in a relationship, but if you do that then it won’t be long before you’re searching up and down to retrieve the burning spark that once existed.
Look, you don’t need to be red carpet ready at all times, but you really should make an effort to try to maintain your appearance and look good for your guy. You put your best face forward during those first few months of dating, and there’s no reason for it to stop once things are more established. It will keep the passion and lust alive in your relationship and also, it makes a man feel really good when a woman puts in effort to look beautiful for him.
The funny thing I notice is that women in relationships (again, myself included), will lounge around the house in sweats and a messy bun and no makeup when they’re home with their guy, but will put on a face-full of makeup and get decked out when going out…to impress strangers? The whole thing is so backwards. A guy friend once lamented to me that his girlfriend had put on about 15 pounds since they’d started dating and canceled her gym membership. He told me he was still very much attracted to her, but he just couldn’t understand why she wasn’t taking care of herself anymore, and that was more of a turn-off than the weight gain. He felt stuck because there was no way to say something without her being offended and hurt. He pleaded with me to spread the gospel and tell women that while a man’s love isn’t solely contingent on physical appearance, it’s really important (and attractive) to continue to take care of yourself like you did when you first met…and so I have!
This is another tip that will enormously help your relationship, but also your life in general. Men cannot resist a woman with a smile. In fact, every guy I know has said that a positive attitude is the number-one most attractive quality a woman can have. Look, life isn’t always going to be rainbows and sunshine. Sometimes the poop hits the fan, but your life will be a much better place overall if you can tackle it all with a smile and the conviction that it will all work out.
This kind of energy is infectious. It draws people towards you and it makes you the kind of woman a man will want to be with forever. Don’t use your guy as a sounding board or your relationship as an emotional dumping ground. When your guy comes home, greet him with a smile…and then vent if you had a rough day and need to let it out.
Try to see the good in all situations, both in your relationship and outside of it. The things that happen in our lives, for the most part, are neutral. What makes them good or bad is our perceptions and the thoughts we attach to them.
Respect Your Man
It goes without saying that an ideal woman is one who respects herself, but she also genuinely respects her man.
In addition to needing to be appreciated, men have an enormous need to feel respected. This is true of all humans, but usually this desire burns stronger in men. A man feel respected when a woman appreciates who he is and what he needs and gives him space to express himself without making demands on him and prioritizing herself over him.
Respect means accepting that he needs certain things, even if they are in opposition to what you want or need. For example, when men get stressed or feel unbalanced, they usually like to retreat into their “cave” to sort things out. They don’t necessarily like talking through the problem and would rather work it out on their own and then come back into the relationship re-charged.
So let’s say your guy is having a hard time and needs some time alone, but you really want him to be open and honest with you and to share his feelings. Respecting him entails putting what’s best for him above what you want. In this case, it would be giving him the space to work through his issues even though you would prefer that he talk to you about it, because that’s what’s going to be most beneficial for him.
It also means respecting who he is, how he lives his life, and what his opinions are. Respect does not look like rolling your eyes when he says something you don’t agree with (or think is the dumbest thing you’ve ever heard) and it doesn’t look like not at least hearing him out and validating his opinion. It’s never nice or fair to make someone feel like an idiot just because you don’t quite see where they’re coming from, and a really important skill is being able to listen to and respect another person’s.
A man cannot love or care for a woman unless he respects her—it just won’t happen. And a man cannot genuinely respect a woman who will put up with anything. While in theory a man would love to get away with everything, in reality there is nothing interesting or appealing about it. A lot of women are afraid to be firm in their convictions because they don’t want to seem demanding or needy (which is funny because only needy people compromise on what they want).
Bending over backwards for a guy and letting him get away with treating you badly because you don’t want to seem like a nag will guarantee more bad behavior, and eventually it will take a big hit on your sense of self. So figure out what you want and what you won’t compromise on. And don’t be afraid to walk away when he doesn’t give you what you know you deserve. It’s only when you’re not afraid to walk away that he’ll do anything to make you stay.
Putting up with poor treatment indicates you don’t respect yourself. Each time you accept and forgive him for bad behavior, you are actually enforcing that it’s OK for him to treat you badly.
At the core of having self-respect is having healthy boundaries. Having strong boundaries means you prioritize your needs and your emotions and do not assume responsibility for someone else’s needs and emotions. When a woman has strong boundaries, she demonstrates confidence, self-respect, and a high sense of self-worth. Weak boundaries, on the other hand, are a sign of insecurity and low self-esteem.
If you don’t have strong boundaries, a man doesn’t have to work to get you. He can have you whenever he wants; you’ll drop what you’re doing to see him, you’ll work around his schedule, his needs will suddenly become your needs. A guy might stick around for this, but this is not the kind of woman a man yearns for and deeply commits to.
A woman with healthy boundaries will not lose herself in a relationship and will not allow her identity to be entirely contingent upon how he sees her. She brings her best self to the relationship, and if problems arise she doesn’t blame herself and assume the responsibility for solving them. She acts in accordance with who she is and what she believes, and doesn’t modify who she is for the sake of getting a guy or keeping him interested.