There are various myths about what makes a good partner. For instance, it’s a myth that a good partner has to agree with what you say, do or think, according to Mudita Rastogi, Ph.D, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Arlington Heights, Ill.
“Sometimes, a great partner offers you a perspective that you would not have otherwise imagined.”
It’s also a myth that “one partner should have what the other does not,” said Jenifer Hope, LCPC, a psychotherapist with over 10 years’ experience working with couples and families.
“We have all seen romantic movies where a character professes how they cannot possibly live without the other because they complete them.”
But this isn’t what makes a good partner. What makes a good partner is a complete partner. As Hope said, a half plus a half doesn’t equal two. “Two complete, whole people equal one happy couple.”
A good partner also is honest, respectful, loyal, forgiving and humble, she said. And they have “the capability to provide unconditional love.”
Below, Rastogi and Hope share some of the other elements of being a good partner.
1. A good partner loves themselves first.
“Couples often come into my office with the misconception that you should put your partner’s needs before your own,” said Hope, who practices at Urban Balance, a group practice in the Chicago area.
The problem is that people will give until they have nothing left, she said. This not only depletes partners but it also leads to “resentment, hostility and [disconnection].”
Knowing your needs and taking care of yourself is key for your health and well-being. It also gives you the energy to be a good partner.
2. A good partner stays attuned to their partner’s needs.
According to Rastogi, a good partner knows their partner’s goals and dreams. They also know what their partner considers “to be supportive and loving behavior.”
They know because they may check in with each other every day, she said. Or they may ask questions directly.
Rastogi shared this example: One partner says, “You sound angry. What’s that about?” The other partner responds with: “I’m not angry. I’m anxious and worried.”
This allows the first partner to ask how they can be supportive.
3. A good partner understands the true meaning of 50/50.
A common complaint Hope hears from couples is that one partner is doing more of the work. A 50/50 partnership in a committed relationship differs from a business arrangement, she said.
“There are peaks and valleys in every relationship.” For instance, one partner may be attending school or struggling with a loss, and the other partner may pick up the missing pieces, she said.
However, “as long as the roles do switch throughout the relationship, then it is ‘50/50.’”
4. A good partner is a good listener.
Being a good listener goes beyond hearing what your partner says. Rather, it’s “paying attention to their message” and “being non-judgmental,” Hope said. For instance, ask yourself: “Am I being sensitive to what they’re saying?”
This also includes asking your partner for clarification and sharing how you heard their message, she said. It helps to minimize miscommunication.
5. A good partner is a good communicator.
Being a good communicator entails paying attention to the words you choose and the tone you use, Hope said. That’s because “what you are saying may not be what your partner is actually hearing.”
Hope gave this example of a couple she’s working with: The wife, who’s currently in graduate school, was struggling with an assignment she’s been working on for a month. She complained to her husband, who has experience in the same field, that she couldn’t figure it out. He said: “Just let me do it; it is very easy.”
In the husband’s mind he was being supportive and helping his wife feel less overwhelmed. To the wife, however, this sounded like: “It is so easy; you’re just not smart enough to figure it out.”
Instead, the husband could’ve said: “Would you like me to help you? I have worked with this before, and I understand how it can be confusing.”
Being a good communicator also means avoiding aggressive words and tones, which only “makes the listener feel defensive and inadequate,” Hope said.
Being a good partner entails various elements. Since this is by no means an exhaustive list, please share what you think in the comments!