A healthy, loving relationship is a wonderful thing —there’s much to be said about the psychological and even physical benefits of knowing that someone loves you. Yet, relationships are commitments, and any commitment will require some degree of sacrifice, whether that be a reassessment of your priorities, a reevaluation of your self-worth, or placing the needs of your partner before your own.
The truth is that we owe it to our future partners to be fully prepared for a relationship before getting ourselves involved in one. We cannot make it another person’s responsibility to lift us up because we would be dragging them down, which is not what love is.
So, before you commit to a serious relationship, here are some essential bits of self-improvement you should attend to first that will make you a better partner in the future.
1. Learn to Enjoy Your Own Company
This may seem counterintuitive, but you must learn to enjoy yourself before entering a relationship, even while you are alone. Not being comfortable by yourself will inevitably lead to anxiety and neediness when you eventually do find yourself in a relationship, which will only serve to push your partner away and may even breed feelings of resentment towards them.
To better appreciate ourselves, we must explore our interests, find hobbies that we enjoy and things that we are passionate about. This will help you understand what makes you unique and allow you to bring something to the table when it comes to your future relationship. Therefore, your reasons for being with your partner will stem from genuine love rather than a need to fill an emptiness within yourself.
2. Resist the Urge to Entertain Feelings of Jealousy
Jealousy is a demon we all struggle with; it can come up in every aspect of our lives. Learning to manage our feelings of jealousy is an invaluable skill whether we’re talking about romantic relationships, friendships, or even careers.
In our romantic relationships, extreme cases of jealousy can lead us to become possessive, as we desperately attempt to guard what we perceive as ours from threats —real or imagined. We might force our partners to give us access to their phones, forbid them from forming friendships with people we deem threats, and live in a constant state of paranoia that somehow they are disloyal.
By giving in to our jealousy, all we are doing is helping to bring about what we fear most. Rather than allowing ourselves to be overcome by feelings of jealousy, we must take the more difficult path of learning not to begrudge others for their good fortune and to trust our partners.
“You are essentially who you create yourself to be, and all that occurs in your life is the result of your own making.” ― Stephen Richards
3. Practice Coping Mechanisms For Stressful Situations
When we love someone, an important part of that love is the desire to protect them. On the other hand, lashing out at even those closest to us can be an involuntary and impulsive response when we find ourselves stressed out. If you’re constantly taking out your frustrations on your partner, you’ll have only yourself to blame when they say enough is enough.
The measure of our capacity to love is not determined by how we act when the weather is fair, but by how we are in the darkest moments of our lives. Two ways come to mind for learning to love when we’re stressed and loving is hardest: the first is to gain an understanding of our flaws and harmful tendencies when under pressure, and the second is to learn how to relieve the build-up of stress and pressure before it becomes an issue.
The first method is undoubtedly essential —as it’s impossible to go through life without encountering some form of challenge that will take us to the breaking point. But, getting a good grip on the behaviors we should avoid is usually a process of trial and error and self-reflection after the fact. It is a lifelong process and not something any of us will perfect before getting into a relationship.
So, to be more loving partners, we can learn how to destress so we don’t get to the point where we’re lashing out unconsciously. A workout or a yoga session, a stroll through the park, or simply a brief diary entry at the end of the day are all healthy ways to relax —find something that works for you.
4. Check Your Baggage at the Door
Yes, you are a strong person. But, despite your own potential beliefs to the contrary, your baggage: prior relationships —traumatic experiences in particular— will have a significant impact on your future relationships.
Overcoming past trauma is rarely straightforward. Even if you’re able to identify what past events are impacting your current ability to connect emotionally, it can still be really difficult to make the conscious decision not to let them influence your feelings and actions.
Perhaps you’re still in the midst of your recovery; some pain never really goes away —our capacity to bear it merely increases. But, the consciousness of your baggage is the first and most important step toward becoming a better person for your partner and creating a healthy relationship.
5. Learn to Communicate Sincerely
Most of the relationship advice listed above is just as helpful for success outside of relationships. The information below is no exception.
No relationship is going to be smooth sailing to the horizon, and no couple lives “happily ever after, full stop.” When a relationship becomes so difficult that you feel like cutting your losses and calling it quits, don’t. These are the situations where what we want to communicate is often too difficult or too painful for us to comprehend fully, and so we feel the urge to give up and withdraw, or worse, to fight back and cause harm with our words.
A strong, long-term relationship has to be built on a foundation of sincere communication where both parties feel safe in freely expressing their desires, needs, and apprehensions without fear of reprisal or belittlement. A failure to communicate will only lead to more and more drastic misunderstandings between partners.
Being able to express yourself freely without fear of judgment is an amazing feeling and is necessary to a firm foundation for any relationship, not just romantic ones.