I’ve been married for 20+ years, and let me tell you – despite your best intentions, you won’t be the perfect partner. At least not all the time.
There are days when you’ll be hangry, angry, selfish, inconsiderate, neglectful…and that doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It only means you’re human.
That said, we could always do better, couldn’t we?
Here are 9 simple ways to be the better version of ourselves in our relationships. All it takes is mindfulness!
1) Get enough sleep and avoid getting hungry
Alright, let’s get the basics out of the way first. Sleep and food.
Normally, I’m a pretty laidback person. But when I’ve had a sleepless night or I’ve gone too long without food, I turn into a monster. At least, that’s what my husband says. And the rest of my family, too.
You see, sleep deprivation and hunger lower our glucose levels. In turn, this lowers our self-control.
That explains why we get into such a terrible mood and we lash out at people when we don’t sleep well and eat on time.
So, like I said, get the basics right, and you’d be in a better position to be kinder, nicer, and more gracious.
Which brings me to my next point…
2) Give your partner (and anyone else) a little more grace
In other words, be kind.
It’s so easy to lose sight of this, especially with people we’re with all the time. I hate to admit it, but I’ve snapped at my husband for the tiniest things.
I’ve been quite demanding and when he messes up, I’ve gotten a tad more critical than the situation called for.
But I’m growing up day by day (or so I hope), and I’ve become more intentional about being kind and gracious, especially when things aren’t going to plan.
To add to that, choose kindness over being right. What does winning an argument matter if it means tearing your relationship to shreds?
Believe me, this simple tweak (easier said than done, I know) goes a long way in making you a better person who has better relationships.
3) Be forgiving
Similarly, knowing how to let things go can make you a better person.
I don’t mean to keep taking shitty behavior from your partner or from other people, though. If you feel hurt, by all means, make that known. Make your boundaries known.
Even then, what I’m saying is, learn how to distinguish between what truly matters and what doesn’t. Find a balance between standing up for yourself and letting the small stuff slide.
Essentially, it’s about choosing your battles wisely.
I’ve learned that not every disagreement needs to turn into a full-blown argument. For instance, if your partner forgets to do a small chore, it might not be worth the energy of an argument. A simple reminder might suffice.
And if your partner does mess up and apologize, accept it graciously, then let go.
There’s a Ruth Bell Graham quote that has helped me in terms of this, as I used to be quite a grudge-holder myself:
“Marriage is the union of two good forgivers.”
This helps me to always look at the big picture – the health of our relationship.
4) Put your phone away and be present
That phone of yours? Time to put that away when you’re with your loved ones.
It’s a tall order, I know, now that our phones have practically become appendages. But it goes a long way in being present.
And you know what? Sometimes, that’s all you need to be a better partner, parent, friend, and so on.
Because presence is powerful.
In fact, did you know that of all the love languages, it’s quality time that people appreciate most? A recent survey showed that across the US, quality time is the love language that Americans love to receive most.
So yes, make the time you spend with your loved one count. Listen actively so you can respond in a way that makes them feel seen and heard.
And what exactly does that way look like? It looks like empathy.
5) Don’t make it about you – empathize
I remember when I told a friend about a difficult situation I was facing at work. She responded with, “Oh, that’s nothing. All you have to do is speak up. I had this problem myself a few years ago, but I spoke up about what I wanted, and that was that.”
If you’ve experienced something like this, then you know how crappy it feels to vent and have your feelings dismissed.
The thing is, when someone shares their troubles with you, they’re not always looking for advice. Sometimes, they just need to be heard and to feel that their emotions are legitimate.
That’s why being empathetic is such a power move when it comes to improving relationships. It’s about:
- Genuinely putting yourself in the other person’s shoes
- Understanding their perspective
- Validating their feelings
Do those, and you’ll truly be a better person for it!
6) Be respectful
Following on from empathy, let’s talk about respect. An element that can make or break relationships.
I know couples who, on the surface, don’t seem compatible at all. They have hugely different personalities and hugely different opinions on many things. And yet, their relationship works.
Because they practice respect. They watch their tone with each other, even when they disagree. They give each other the space to hold their own viewpoints and feelings.
Meanwhile, I know couples who seemed like the perfect fit at first but ended up parting ways because they lacked respect for each other.
Nastiness has no place in a healthy relationship. No matter how strongly you disagree on something, keep things respectful.
Avoid sarcasm, passive aggressiveness, below-the-belt comments, and all the toxic ways of communicating that can easily erode your relationship.
7) Be humble
Part of being respectful is being humble. Why does humility matter so much in relationships?
Because, to quote an old proverb: Pride goes before a fall.
Just like being disrespectful, being prideful can turn you into a nasty person you don’t know.
And you know what? That version is what will stay in people’s minds longer than the sweet, kind version of you.
Truth is, the human mind naturally tends to dwell on negative emotions more.
All your positive contributions to your relationship won’t matter if you:
- Don’t know how to apologize for your mistakes
- Refuse to admit when you’re wrong.
- Always insist on having the last word in an argument
- Fail to acknowledge your partner’s feelings and perspectives
- Make every disagreement a battle of egos rather than a discussion for understanding
- Are unwilling to compromise and expect things to always go your way
- Overlook the importance of expressing gratitude for your partner’s actions and efforts
- Ignore the need for self-reflection and personal growth within the relationship
Need I say more?
8) Always express gratitude
In the list above, you’ll notice how I included the importance of expressing gratitude in a relationship.
Again, this is something many of us neglect when we’ve been together for so long. We begin taking things for granted, and pretty soon our partners begin feeling unappreciated.
But like I said in the beginning, all it takes is mindfulness. Remember to pause and see how your partner makes your life so much easier and better.
Despite all of my and my husband’s shortcomings, we love expressing gratitude to each other. We say thank you – whether through words, little gifts (donuts! ice cream!), or acts of service – for the smallest things the other does.
I can say that being mindful and staying appreciative has made us better people.
9) Pick up after yourself
Finally, I’m including something every mom has probably told their kid – pick up after yourself.
Seriously? Yes, seriously.
This seemingly simple piece of advice is more than just a reminder to keep your space tidy.
It’s about responsibility, consideration, and respect – which are all central to becoming a better person, especially in a relationship.
When you make the effort to pick up after yourself, you’re showing your partner that you value their comfort and well-being. You’re taking responsibility for your part in creating a pleasant, harmonious living space.
As mundane as it seems, this simple act is actually a powerful statement that you care. That you’re willing to make an effort.
You know what’s the best thing about this? For most people, effort is enough!
It might sound daunting, but becoming a better person is simpler than we think. I would say that it all boils down to thoughtfulness and the willingness to follow through.
When you take the time to think of how you can be a better person and make the people in your life happy, you’ll see that it actually takes very little.
More often than not, it’s the little things that make the biggest impact, as long as they’re done consistently. A kind word, a thoughtful gesture, an expression of gratitude.
And you know what? They won’t even cost you anything!