Relationships are critically important to us as human beings. Especially during the pandemic we realized how much we need good relationships in our lives (emphasis on good). And no one is more important to us than our life partner. On the flip side of that coin, we need to be a good life partner, too (emphasis on good). It’s a two-way street. If we rely on our spouse to be good for us, but we don’t try to be good for them, it becomes a very one-sided relationship where tension and resentment can build.
As a marriage counselor, I see many ways that people aren’t being their best selves in their relationships. There are two specific issues that I see most clients really struggle with: 1) being better than you were yesterday, and 2) showing up for your partner how they need it.
Being Better That You Were Yesterday
Being your best self in your relationship means you’re showing up better than you did yesterday. Not just for yourself, but also for your partner. Relationships stretch us. They give us a mirror into ourselves about not just how we see ourselves, but how others see us, too. There’s a saying in my field as a marriage counselor that goes like this: “I’m not just who I think I am, I’m also who you think I am.” Being your best self in your relationship means you’re listening for feedback from your partner and trying to integrate it into bettering yourself. So think about what feedback you’ve heard from your partner. Try to find the nugget of truth in this feedback, and go to work on self-improvement.
Showing Up How Your Partner Needs
Being your best self in your relationship also means showing up for your partner in the way they need it. You can’t help the way you were raised. Maybe you were raised in a loving family where affection was abundant. Or maybe you were raised in a family that avoided conflict. No matter how you were raised, it had its strengths and weaknesses. If you were raised in an affectionate family, for example, maybe you have a hard time connecting with people who are more closed-off or guarded. Or if you were raised in an avoidant family, maybe you have a hard time showing affection. Regardless, being better for your relationship isn’t about how you were raised, but how your partner was raised – and trying to show up for them in the way they need it.
It's always a good time to take a deep dive into yourself and see how you can bring your best self into your relationship. When you think of your of New Year resolutions, maybe what you want to work on isn't only about what would be good for you, but also about what would be good for your partner and your relationship.
Aaron Anderson is an LMFT and has an M.S. in Marriage and Family Therapy. He and his wife Becky Anderson own The Marriage and Family Clinic in Westminster.
Relationships stretch us. They give us a mirror into ourselves about not just how we see ourselves, but how others see us, too.