We asked 19 experts “How to become a better person in a relationship?”
Below are their insights:
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in San Diego, California
If there is one thing that helps people improve themselves and grow in a relationship, it is to become more and more emotionally intelligent. Emotional intelligence (aka, emotional maturity) has many benefits to a person as well as to a relationship. It requires a person to identify and understand at a deeper level what he or she is experiencing and feeling rather than just what he or she is thinking.
This individual growth helps the relationship in the following ways:
1) it gives a person a deeper knowledge of their own personal identity,
2) it gives a person the opportunity to share that newly discovered piece of themselves to their partner, and
3) it gives a person the ability to have compassion and empathy for their partner. What I mean by this is that in order to “empathize” with another person’s experience, it is crucial to have one’s own similar experience to relate it to.
For example, if I know what it feels like to feel hurt when someone criticizes my cooking, I will then be more capable of knowing the look on my wife’s face if and when someone (like me!) criticizes her attempt at cooking a new dish.
This ability to empathize with her allows me to not only have compassion for her in her time of need, but it also expands my self-awareness of my own life and allows me to become a bigger and better version of myself.
Tina B. Tessina, PhD, (aka “Dr. Romance”)
Begin by reevaluating the purpose of your relationships; use them as a training ground. Assume there will be a lot to learn, and lots of problems to solve which increase in complexity as you gain in knowledge.
So, when problems arise in your relationship, stop a moment and think before you react with outrage and hurt. Say to yourself, “What was I given this problem for? What can I learn from this? What do I need to know to solve it?” View the problem as a homework assignment, and figure out what it has been designed to teach you.
For example, perhaps your partner is not giving you enough attention. Perhaps this situation has happened before, with this partner and with others. You merely want a kind word, a loving touch; it doesn’t seem too much to ask. Yet this partner, and previous partners, too, seem to find it impossible. What could you possibly learn from this problem?
Perhaps you need to learn more about networking; having a circle of friends you can rely on so that your primary relationship is not under the strain and stress of having to meet ALL your needs. When your partner is preoccupied with work problems, illness, or other absorbing facets of life, you can still have many sources of affection and attention.
Often this problem arises because you need to learn the great satisfaction of being able to give attention to YOURSELF.
When you are unable to love yourself satisfactorily, other people feel a sense of despair about loving you. It’s as though you feel like a bottomless pit into which they can pour all their love, and you still will not be filled.
Therefore, they often give up trying. Learning the lesson of self-love eliminates the problem. People suddenly feel successful in loving you, and everyone loves to do whatever he/she does well. Or maybe you need to learn the art of appreciation, noticing the attention you are given, however slight it may seem. That which is appreciated grows and grows.
Again, people quickly tire of giving which goes unnoticed. A little appreciation of what is done gets a lot more response than a lot of complaining about what is not.
These are only a few examples of the growth and knowledge to be gained from problem-solving this one issue. As many possible lessons exist as there are different people. The more carefully and conscientiously you approach your homework, the more you will benefit in increased love and joy.
I’m a clinical psychologist in private practice in Chester Springs, PA (Philadelphia suburbs). I work with a lot of people on relationships, individually and as couples. Here are some of the ways a relationship can make you a better person.
Being with the right person is a key factor, as not being in just any relationship is important. A good partner is supportive, wants to be a good person themselves, and has goals and aspirations of their own. It’s also helpful to share not just common interests, but goals and values.
First, being in a relationship can be a person out of a selfish mindset. They start thinking in “we” terms, instead of “me”. Thinking of others, whether it’s putting them first or paying attention to how our actions affect them helps us to be better.
Similarly, being with someone else helps us to look at the bigger picture. Even if you’re not thinking marriage or a family, when it’s not only you, you tend to think more long-term or more about the important things in life (saving money, your career, your living situation, etc.). We may be less likely to make impulse purchases and we may be more financially responsible when there is another person in the picture, especially when we feel accountable to them (say you are thinking about moving in, getting engaged, or married).
We may also think more about our behavior when our partner isn’t around. “What would (insert name here) say?” Whether it’s how we drive, how we treat others, whether or not we check out other women or men, and so on. It’s feeling accountable, but also possibly a desire to be better. We want our partner to think well of us, but we also want to feel good about ourselves.
And with the support of a partner, we’re more likely to focus on or persevere toward goals, while cutting down on unhealthy or unhelpful habits. Whether our partner participates, cheers on, or helps in another way, this is a critical part of being the best version of ourselves we can be.
Texas Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and Professional Counselor
Start with your own daily self-care. This can look different for each one of us, but the key is to do something for you and your own well-being every day.
Ideally, you’re doing something that can help you feel more grounded in the present moment, as this should also help you become more self-aware. What’s helpful? Activities like a short, quiet or guided meditation (some guided meditation apps I recommend checking out include Calm and 10% Happier), mindfulness practices like focusing on your five senses, and keeping a gratitude journal to help you focus on the positive aspects of your life, can all be helpful in this process.
Author Brene Brown has some great books and research on connection (I’d recommend checking out her books, her TED Talk and her youtube channel if you aren’t familiar with her work). She talks a lot about vulnerability and that in order for us to feel close and connected to others, we need to be vulnerable and open with them (and them with us). Her work also goes into depth about sympathy versus empathy, and the importance of being empathic in our relationships. This can look like trying to really understand things from our partner’s perspective such as how they are feeling, what they are experiencing, and so forth.
Another important part of being a better person in a relationship is to hone in on your communication skills. Using I-statements when you are trying to get your point across, so your comments stay from your perspective and don’t come across as blaming the other person. Also, having really great active listening skills can make a huge difference in your relationship as well. If your partner can feel seen, heard and understood by you, this should help strengthen your relationship and the closeness you feel towards one another.
The best most counterintuitive answer to that question is: learn to receive.
Learn to let down your guard, receive what it is that your partner is offering, take it in and allow it to impact and influence how you feel about your partner, your relationship and yourself. Too, too often we find ourselves thinking and believing that the only way to make things–especially relationships–better is through coming up with the right contribution.
What we neglect here is that each of us needs to feel that what we are giving to our partner in a relationship is valuable, and the only way to do that is to receive, accept, take in, and make use of what others are giving to us.
Deborah Lucero – Live Your Full Life
Here are a few insights I learned to become a better person in my relationship.
I discovered what the five love languages are according to Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages. Once I understood how to communicate through the love languages I found hope and purpose in my marriage. It helped me realize that I was not just butting my head up against a brick wall. There is a process involved.
I also took Tony Robbins’ leading energy quiz. It explains how masculine leading energy demonstrates feminine leading energy characteristics as a defense mechanism. The same is true for the feminine energy. It will take on masculine energy traits when that person feels threatened or think they need to be defensive. This will happen when you are not speaking the correct love language.
Another nugget of wisdom came from Tony Robbins‘ book Awaken the Giant Within, “Turn your expectation into appreciations.” It simply means to stop expecting and start appreciating! You do this by being grateful! Gratitude will elevate you to feel appreciation for even the smallest things. Sometimes it is hard to realize what you should be grateful for.
Possibly the greatest insight I uncovered to improve my marriage is, “It is better to improve yourself, don’t work on the other person, work on your thoughts about the other person,” Robert Kiyosaki author of Rich Dad’s Cashflow Quadrant: Rich Dad’s Guide to Financial Freedom. This book helped me realize you need the RIGHT mindset to release the thoughts that are not serving you and change old programs. It taught me to focus my attention and put all my energy into mastering my goals. It showed me how to see the possibilities!
I was in a relationship with an alcoholic for 15 years always blaming HIM for our relationship problems. But, when I reach recovery in Al-Anon (a 12 step program for family and friends of alcoholics), the sister program to AA, I discovered that I TOO needed to become a better person in our relationship.
I was playing mother, martyr, manipulator, all while micromanaging him. Oh, and then I would criticize and complain about his behavior and what he DID and DIDN’T do. Those were not healthy habits and they contributed to our conflict. In the rooms of recovery (weekly meetings for over 20 years in Al-Anon), I learned that I had a relationship sickness called codependency.
It is the silent addiction that nobody things of. Nobody was looking at me while I was pointing the finger at him. I learned to take responsibility for myself, heal, and grow into the person I love being today.
Related: Best Books on Codependency Recovery
Today, I am someone who loves toxic people from a distance and has chosen healthier people to be close with. And when I am in a relationship, I have boundaries and respect that other people are human and will make mistakes. To become a better person in a relationship, I had to become better.
- knowing my truth and who I am
- telling my truth
- speaking my truth
- living my truth
- sharing my truth
- affirming my truth in all my relationships
First, before I could be authentic in my relationships, I had to learn who I was and be comfortable with that. I couldn’t rely on my partner fulfilling my life and making me happy. How could a sick and suffering alcoholic make me happy? Why was I putting the responsibility on HIM anyhow?
The relationship with myself had to become better, then I could have better relationships with others!
Tanvi Mathew, MS, LPC – Emerge Counseling
If you want to become a better person in a relationship, you have to first understand yourself and who you are along with your wants and needs.
Relationships often go downhill when people haven’t dealt with their own insecurities and baggage. When you bring baggage from your past, whether it’s previous relationships or childhood issues, you aren’t able to focus on your relationship with your significant other. The focus on each other in a relationship has to be mutual. If one person continues to take that energy it can be detrimental.
Self-reflection and ACCOUNTABILITY are keys in a relationship. You have to be able to own your faults and be open to feedback. You also have to be able to communicate effectively with your significant other. People have difficulty talking about “difficult things” but that’s what will help a relationship evolve.
Deavin Ross (aka “The Love Author”) – Love the 2nd Time Around
In order for us to experience growth in our relationships, we must first get free from fear, humble ourselves, be teachable, seek wise counsel, and most importantly, admit that we don’t have all the answers! Let’s stop making excuses and honor our commitments with one another. What we experience in our relationships reveals our mistakes, which should draw us closer to each other!
Committed mates pay more attention to little things to show their love and concern. Simply saying, “I love you,” when away calling checking in, or going on dates affirms your commitment. Write a love note, rub each other’s feet, pray together, and try to attentively listen well. Conveying commitment isn’t showy, but subtle and common. You have to do the work! Here are five key ingredients to a recipe for a healthy relationship of any kind.
A – Accountability: Know that being in a relationship with someone you will make mistakes. The important thing to remember is to be quick to take accountability and be willing to learn from it. Also, be there for each other, Tell your mate that it’s okay while encouraging each other to get back on track. Don’t condemn or say, “It’s your fault.” Instead say, “It’s okay, things will get better.” Be slow to speak when trouble arises. Take time to access the situation without uttering a word. This exemplifies great respect for one another within your conduct.
G – Giving: No matter what is going on despite any shortcomings – Give freely. Refuse to be in unforgiveness. Don’t hold grudges towards each other. Do not let bitterness settle in, overcome it right away and deal with the situation immediately. This exemplifies a great love for one another by allowing transparency in the relationship.
A –Acceptance: Choose to accept them for who they are with all the flaws. Not just in a spouse or mate but with everyone you meet. With that kind of heart for people, you can then be vulnerable with your significant other. You can be who you are without feeling that you must be deceptive or hide things. Be comfortable with being you, and in return, you will be able to accept others as they are regardless of failures and idiosyncrasies.
P – Perfection: There should be no fear in love. But, perfect love should cast out all fear. When you’re in a relationship, you want to be perfect for your mate. Yet, as human beings, we are not perfect. Nonetheless, we need relationships, so we can be perfected. Constantly working toward being a better person. So, when it says,
“Perfect love cast out all fear”, it makes you more vulnerable and transparent about your life. As you mature, trust develops and becomes the foundation of your relationship. When your mate sees your imperfections, it’s like you’re out on a cliff, because we are exposed to each other’s weaknesses. But, be assured that because of you, they too are on that cliff with you being perfected in love.
E – Endurance: Endure life with each other. Each person brings their own set of morals, values, beliefs, challenges and life experiences into the relationship and you can have a difficult time adjusting to the change. You could look at all that each has going on and easily say, “With the challenges that you have, at this point in my life, this is too much.” But choose to endure. We all have our fair share of enormous responsibilities and the things that are going on in our lives. When you look at the packages that each of you came with, you ponder and ask them, “You still in?” Immediately, the response should be a big, “Yes, I’m not going anywhere.” If you can endure whatever challenges you are facing, it gives your mate more confidence to know that you are rooted and grounded with them. You truly have their back no matter what!
In conclusion, now that you have discovered the five ingredients to help your relationships develop and grow, Lets now take the first letter of each ingredient and you get AGAPE – that word means LOVE! It’s an “unconditional” love meaning you are not seeking anything in return and truly loving someone regardless of circumstance.
Understand that being in a relationship is an agreement with someone whom you love. Allow your previous experiences to teach you how to do things differently. I encourage you to become more submissive to one another; humble, obedient, selfless, and sacrificial – in return, you become a better person!
Gabby Beckford – Packs Light
I recently went through a break up with an amazing guy who I thought was The One—except for the fact that we had issues from the very beginning on when he should be texting me, how I was reacting to things, and I just kept saying we “weren’t on the same page“.
In the beginning, I tried to take a step back, meld more with his needs, and blamed myself for not being more independent in the relationship (a little ironic, right?)
After the break up I did a lot of research on attachment styles and realized that I was an anxious attachment style, and he was avoidant. No matter how much we loved each other, we were doomed from the start because we wanted fundamentally different things in terms of intimacy.
From this hard lesson, I learned that for my next relationship and all others forward, to accept my relationship needs and state them early on, and really pay attention to their reaction. I had told this last boyfriend I liked the attention, needed reassurance/validation early on, and needed him to be available for me to talk to. He verbally agreed wholeheartedly, but his actions were the complete opposite.
I now know that to be a better person for the sake of both side of the relationship, I need to stick to my guns and accept my needs. Otherwise, you pretend to be someone you’re not until you hit a breaking point as I did, and it is all for not either way. If I was honest and steadfast in the beginning he could have known “Wow, this is what she wants. I either have to accommodate, or let her know I can’t do that for her“, and at least the break up would have been less messy.
Alexa Amador – Health Labs
My first tip is to become less selfish. When you’re in a relationship, the time you spend together is shared. It’s not all about you, and you begin to realize this with the simple question of, “How was your day?”
You want to know all about their day. It’s easy for them to share the good, but when it comes to the bad, they’ll feel more open to sharing if your disposition is obvious that you want to help them feel better about whatever happened. But you must let them know you’re there for them too. Especially at the beginning of a relationship, it can be difficult for some couples to give and receive 100% of their time, attention, effort, and energy. But, it is so necessary for a successful and positive relationship.
My second tip is to be better at communication. Oh man, this is huge. In couple relationships and even simple coworker relationships, communication is huge. It helps keep you at an even level (psychologically). You learn to stop keeping things that bothered you all balled up in yourself and start letting the person know that this or that offended you in a gentle, polite manner without becoming combative.
I have learned this first-hand (in a not so pretty way). I used to primarily be a peacemaker that fixed everyone else’s arguments, problems, and discomforts while keeping mine to myself because “everyone has enough going on in their lives.” It’s bad to keep it all in because one way or another, it’s ALL going to come pouring out of you. And, for some, the only way for them to open this security gate is through things that make you emotionally worse like alcohol, drugs, or simply being pushed too far until it all explodes on whichever unlucky soul is nearest.
Ok, I’m gonna break these down into shorter sentences:
1. Be selfless. Ask them questions. Have a genuine interest in how their life is going. What their life goals are and if they’re getting closer to them or if not, what they can do to get there. Be the counselor they need at random points in their day.
2. Communicate. When something happens that bothered you, take a step back and analyze why it bothered you. If it’s something that’s going to bother you, again and again, let the person know. The sooner the better. This goes for your partner and also just general coworkers, friends, family, etc.
It all starts with being a good active listener, acknowledging and validating where your partner is coming from, and using “I” statements (“I feel … when you …”). Communication makes this world go ‘round and is the glue of any relationship.
Also, pull your own weight in a relationship. Someone who’s too much of a “giver” can get “nurture fatigue” and begin to resent his or her partner for not contributing to the relationship. It can be as simple as taking turns cooking dinner and doing the dishes.
Finally, learn how your partner likes to receive love. Does she like acts of service? Does he like quality time together? If you’re going to be a better partner, you need to communicate your needs and compromise where possible.
Ashley Collom – Magical Mind
You can become a better person in a relationship by using your partner’s love language. Love languages are:
- word of affirmation,
- physical touch,
- quality time,
- acts of service,
- receiving gifts.
We each feel love and affection from different sources. Some gals like flowers, while others will just melt if you do the dishes. That is the first step is determining your partner’s love language. There are loads of quizzes about this online. Once you are aware, actually implement their love language into how you interact with them.
So hypothetically, if your love language is physical touch but your partner’s is acts of service, why don’t you try making her coffee in the morning instead of trying to get some morning sex? As partners, we need to understand our partner’s needs, not just our own, and try to function in a way that is aligned with our wants but also keeping our partner’s needs in mind. By openly communicating about how best you understand love, you and your partner can grow together and make sure no one is left feeling disconnected.
Dave Bowden – Irreverent Gent
One thing that can help you be a better person in a relationship is to think of each day of your relationship as your first date. On your first date, you probably did everything you could to be the best version of yourself and put your best face forward: you showed genuine interest in your partner, you asked thoughtful questions to get to know them, responded in ways that made them feel heard, and flirted with them to show them that not only did you see them, but you were attracted to them.
Most of us start out doing these things in relationships but fall out of the habit of making our partners feel appreciated as we become more familiar with them. We stop putting ourselves in their shoes and focus more on ours – our needs, our desires, and what we want to get out of the relationship.
By going back into the mindset you had on your first date, you can sort of reboot your system and see your partner in the same exciting, interesting and sexy light you first saw them in, which will motivate you to make them feel appreciated and loved. In turn, this will make you feel like a better person because you’re giving of yourself to improve your relationship.
Rebecca Cohen – Amen V’Amen
There are a TON of ways to become a better person in a relationship. Here are some of my favorite principles and methods I learned (many times the hard way) over the years:
1. Value the differences.
We tend to value the things we have in common with our significant others. But we don’t give nearly enough credit to our differences. Every person is different, and it’s often those differences we’re attracted to in the first place.
It would be incredibly boring if everyone was exactly the same, wouldn’t it? There’s no such thing as a one-size fits all partner. Relationships would be incredibly boring if that were the case.
Instead of denying that we have differences (or worse) trying to mold our partners to make them “more like us”, we’re better off finding common ground in the things we value, and celebrating the differences of our significant other.
2. Address conflicts in their infancy
“What’s wrong, honey?” Nothing! (she said in an angry tone).
Postponing a problem doesn’t make it go away. It only makes them worse because the longer we wait, the more our problem “accumulates interest”, and becomes bigger and bigger. I’ve seen it, I’ve done it… it’s a mistake.
Next time something is bothering you, instead of sweeping it under the rug – tell your partner what’s bothering you. I believe this principle alone would significantly reduce divorce rates in our country.
3. Listen with empathy
Humans have a tendency to listen in order to reply, as opposed to listening in order to understand. And when someone close to us does that, we get doubly frustrated…
“You just don’t get me…”
“Ugh… never mind…”
“Can’t you just listen without jumping in every 2 seconds?!”
Many times, we rush in and voice our opinions… even though our partner isn’t looking for our opinion. They simply want to get something off their chest. And it’s our job as a loving partner to listen empathetically to what they have to say to alleviate their burden.
This is an interesting question because I feel it can be taken two ways. One, how to be a better individual while in a relationship. Or two, how to become a better person for your partner. I am happy to answer both questions.
Relationships can often create stagnation and conformity, which can stunt one’s journey to become a better person. To ensure that I stay on my path to be a better person, the number one thing I like to do is continue to meet new people.
Seeing different points of view is the key to being a good person. It breeds compassion and thought. It’s also important that I spend time with close friends as well as new people without my partner. Not only does this keep my individual thought process progressing, but it also makes for great conversation later with my partner. Of course, I also want to involve my partner in my betterment. To keep each other on the same page, we travel to open our minds and volunteer together.
In answer to the question, how to become a better person in my relationship, I check in with myself that I am kind, admit and apologize when I am wrong or hurtful, and communicate my needs so I don’t act out. I find most hurtful actions come when someone’s needs aren’t met so I make sure I ask for what I need and fulfill his needs as well. If he is not telling me what he needs, I ask. If he is not satisfying my needs, I ask – (Almost) always in a nice way. Sometimes I audit what I say or do with my partner by asking these questions, “Would I want someone to say or do this to me?” “Would I want other people to know that I’ve said this or done this?” “Would I want everyone to behave this way?”.
Tara Geraghty – Making Cancer Fun
Creator of the Grateful Connection Course and the Author of “Making Cancer Fun: A Parent’s Guide”
It has been said how you do one thing is how you do everything. So being a better person in a relationship starts with … being a better you. Your relationship first with yourself will impact every other relationship you have.
Are you someone that you like? If not, how would you expect others to like you? Do you have integrity with yourself? If not how can you bring trust and honesty into a relationship? Simple basic foundational needs for any healthy relationship.
The verb “better” comes from the Old English word “beterian” meaning to “improve.” When we improve ourselves first, we improve our relationships. Take a moment and rate yourself. Where could you better (improve) yourself? Are you a good communicator or do you find it difficult to talk about your feelings? Do you practice good self-care, making sure you get enough sleep, eat well, and take time to slow down and reconnect spiritually so you can be at your best? Do you set healthy boundaries and expectations? Are you judgmental and critical of yourself and everyone around you? Do you find you lose your temper easily or are you a master at the art of patience? If you could improve just one thing about yourself that would move you closer to the best version of you, what would that be?
The great thing is we live in a world where personal development is usually only a click away. Books, blogs, podcasts, and videos are at our fingertips all for the betterment of ourselves. Communication styles, relationship advice, mindfulness and understanding your unique personality are areas of study everyone has access to.
Being better in a relationship simply starts with the decision to be a better you – each day improving yourself will improve the world, and yes the relationships, around you.
Spiritual Life Coach, Best-selling Author, and Motivational Speaker
I think a key ingredient in cultivating Self to becoming a “better” and wiser partner in a relationship is to take a good look at your previous relationships and take notes on what didn’t work!
Maybe arguments that stemmed from something that was unconsciously said or a miscommunication that could have been avoided knowing your own personal triggers. It is when we choose to respond differently to challenging situations is when we “find” the answers we are seeking.
Spiritual growth and personal development skills are essential for creating healthy and happy relationships.
Want to become a better person in your relationship? Consider trying meditation.
Meditation has been proven to increase people’s ability to feel compassion for others. Once you realize everything isn’t just about you, it allows you to act in ways that take your partner’s needs into account. It also helps you become more accepting. Rather than trying to change that annoying habit your partner has, you may be able to change your reaction to that habit.
Meditation can be practiced for as little as a few minutes a day, and the benefits can be far-reaching.
In my own journey, I’ve come to realize that the purpose of a relationship and the conflict that can occur in a relationship is to teach us to become better people. Too often we blame the other person instead of looking at a relationship as a mirror telling us how we each need to become a better person.
Here’s my story: When I got divorced, like a lot of people, I blamed the other person. Then I asked myself: What do I have to learn from this?
And so began my journey seeking to learn what I needed to learn. I soon realized that the many confusing messages about what it means to be a man were not helping me become a better man. It was only when I turned to the insights that fathers used to teach sons about being a man that I learned how a man becomes a better person in a relationship. The three most important lessons were: Show leadership, make decisions and take responsibility. Applying these lessons made me a better person not only in relationships but in all parts of life — as a parent, at my job, and in the community.
To share what I learned, I wrote a book that has struck a chord around the world. It has been translated into 24 languages by publishers in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa. I also coach women on how to inspire men to be the kind of man women wants, and coach men on how to become a man that women love and respect.