How to be a better spouse or partner

Category: Better Relationships | Author and Publisher: Elly Prior | First published: 03-08-2017 | Modified: 14-06-2019

I want to be upfront with you...
I recommend only carefully chosen resources/products. If you buy something through one of the links, I may earn a commission at NO extra cost to you. Let me explain (opens in a new tab).

Print this article

Free advice to help you build a solid, happy long-term marriage

I have a ton of free relationship advice available here on my site - every single article offers just that.

On this page, I'm aiming to give you the basics of what's required in a loving relationship. I'm hoping to arm you with the knowledge to help you take your relationship to the next level and inject love, light and life into it.

I'll help you answer the following relationship questions:

  • What makes for a happy, loving relationship? What are the secrets?
  • Can I make someone love me, or love me more?
  • Can I really make my partner happy? 
  • How do I stand the best possible chance of keeping this relationship alive and well?
  • How do I make my relationship more resilient and help it to survive any relationship problems?

I'm going to bestow you with a ton of free relationship advice. You'll get tips and 'secrets' to help you create the best possible chance of having a strong and lasting relationship. 

Image quote: Want to be a better husband, wife or partner? To start with - the best advice I have is that you give of yourself out of love and without expectation

The recipe for a happy relationship or marriage

Of course it’s vital that you start with some common ground. Shared values and beliefs without a doubt strengthen a relationship (for a list of values, see link below article)..

Beyond that, I’m assuming that you’ve already filtered out unsuitable or even abusive partners. 

Not sure what an abusive relationship looks like? Then see my articles: Signs of an abusive relationship and Signs of emotional abuse.

So now that you're embarking on a long-term partnership, join me to discover my best tips for a healthy relationship

Giving and receiving attention means fulfilling an essential emotional need

The way you give and receive attention is THE most important factor in an intimate relationship. Without this, I can assure you your relationship will die!

As human beings, our need for attention overrides any other need. So, simply by giving your partner your full attention you’ll increase the chance of your relationship's survival. And you'll doubtless please your partner at the same time! That is - if it's given freely, without expectation, and with consideration of your partner's willingness to engage in that moment.

There is one other caveat though. The secret is that it has to be the kind of attention your partner values. So for example, showering your partner with kisses at every opportunity may feel great to you. BUT that might make your partner feel overwhelmed. So don't be surprised if this hampers intimacy rather than increases it. The secrets of a happy relationship lie in you paying attention to what your partner would really like.

Here are some tips on how to give your partner some loving attention:

  • Send a card every now and then, when it’s not expected - it takes so little effort and can have such a positive impact. Discover how to write something really special in my article How to write truly personal Valentine's Day card messages.
  • Send romantic texts.
  • Leave 'love notes' or cards in briefcases, lunch boxes, pockets etc.
  • Tell your partner what exactly you love about him or her and ...
  • why that’s important to you, rather than just saying you love them.
  • Flirt with your partner in the way that you know he or she appreciates (not in the way it suits you) – regardless of how long you've been together.
  • Continue to invest time in novel activities, outings and experiences (this stimulates the dopamine circuit, which helps to create that wonderfully exciting romantic feeling).
  • Contribute to telling the story of your relationship in a special journal - create a record of all the positive experiences you have together.

Oh... and by the way, don’t forget - giving each other attention implies giving generously of your time. And it needs to work both ways!

'Only when we give joyfully without hesitation or thought of gain, can we truly know what      means.' - Leo Buscaglia

How to make the right moves and avoid pulling the wrong faces!

You'll be communicating not just to pass on information, but also to create a sense of emotional and sexual intimacy. Verbal and nonverbal communication overlap, but I'll break them down a little further here.

Verbal communication happens face-to-face, via emails or texts, or by any hand-written messages. Just think of all the opportunities you have to create that intimacy and those special feelings. Make full use of all of them to create your very own recipe for a happy marriage or relationship and move it to the next level.

Here's a freebie to stop you from making some really big mistakes...

Free printable download

Download the printable PDF of my list with communication spoilers for free! It contains THE most important relationship advice for a happy marriage. Keep it where you'll see it frequently. Whenever there's been an argument, check the list to identify what might have gone wrong.

And now for some nonverbal stuff...

Here's some more relationship advice for that...

3 Simple, but effective, (nonsexual) ways to increase intimacy

  1. Look into each other's eyes - you'll see couples do this a lot when they first fall in love. Gazing into your partner's eyes really makes them feel 'seen', warm and loved. Research has show that it's a sign of someone being in love. So, make the most of this simple act. You can even do this online!
    Oh, and it can also cause arousal too.
  2. Hold, stroke and massage hands (and feet) - you could do it 'on the go', in company, or really take your time and offer it as a special gift. The beauty is that it's nonsexual and therefore non-threatening (but who knows what might happen after!).
  3. Touch often and in unexpected ways - without making it sexual! Touching stimulates the release of oxytocin, the bonding hormone, which helps to creates a sense of trust and security.

Watch this video to learn about the importance of touch...

For touching to really work its magic – with or without sexual connotation - the secret is that you please your partner. Don't assume that your partner will like exactly what you like. Be sensitive to your partner’s needs. He or she may have grown up in a family where people were just not used to being tactile (the same counts for you, of course).

As an important aside...

If you or your partner have at any time been subjected to inappropriate touching or physical and sexual abuse, any hugging, cuddling, kissing, holding hands and so on may sadly induce a great deal of anxiety.

Be aware of what makes you or your partner feel uncomfortable, and talk about it openly together. Dealing with past traumas might need some extra help from a counsellor, so keep in mind this might be something to explore.

Testimonial

You've done a terrific job here. Your posts have been a real help to me. I love the simplicity in your delivery and the practicality of your approach. Thank you for being here!

Adetola

How to be a better spouse or partner

Sharing is caring

Simple sharing is what a happy relationship is all about. It can make the mundane special, the excitement unforgettable and the distress bearable.

5 opportunities to be a better spouse by sharing...

  1. Chores – to make the boring stuff 'manageable'. In fact, researchers studying the sex lives of 1,300 couples discovered that men who share the housework have more and better sex.
  2. New activities – to stimulate the dopamine circuit in the brain, which encourages feelings of romantic love, according to Prof Helen Fisher. This in turn stimulates the testosterone circuit (in men and women), which creates the right 'chemical' environment for a possible sexual encounter.
  3. Self-disclosure - talk about what’s going on for you. This kind of sharing is different for men and women. Women can learn to accept that men do it differently, and men can learn from women how to create intimacy without sex. (Clearly I am generalising here!)
  4. Problems and concerns (see empathy and compassion further down).
  5. Taking a couples quiz together. See my Marriage Compatibility Test.

Be a better husband, wife or partner by Maintaining your sense of humour

Oh... how a laugh can change the meaning of just about everything! 

  • It lightens the mood and improves circumstances simply by changing your perception
  • It takes the sting out of difficult circumstances
  • it can create a sense of togetherness

How much happier would you be if there was more laughter in your relationship? In my view, humour is one of THE biggest secrets of a happy relationship.

A note of caution!

Get it wrong and you'll achieve the opposite of what you wanted - and a row to boot! A sense of humour can be very personal - so be sensitive to your audience and the situation.

Also, some people are genetically predisposed to not understand the re-interpretation of a 'serious' thought, circumstance or experience into something humorous. They have a tendency to take everything literally and have great difficulty in seeing the 'funny side'.  

People on the autistic spectrum, including those with Asperger syndrome, fall into this category. I mention this because I’ve seen quite a number of couples where one of the partners was suffering from this syndrome.

How to deal with relationship- or marital struggles

Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain."


- Anonymous

Calming stormy waters

Empathy means the ability and capacity to observe, recognise and respond to what someone else is feeling.

We have in our brain a set of nerve cells - called mirror neurons, which help us do exactly that. It’s like wincing when you see someone hurting themselves. These cells, as well as your imagination, help to put yourself in that person's shoes.

Empathising with your partner can be hugely comforting to them. Empathising during an argument can work really well too. It can take the wind right out of your partner's sails, if you're able to acknowledge that they're upset or angry! To learn how to do this, hop over to my article on how to stop constant arguing in a relationship.

As an aside...

Women - on the whole - are much better at empathising. But, Prof Simon Baron-Cohen talks about 'empathising brains' and 'systemising brains'. Women are more likely to empathise and men more likely to systemise. But, there is every potential for this to be reversed in an individual. His book, The Essential Difference will help you understand your partner much better. It could actually prove to be a wise investment!

The power of compassion

Compassion is a virtue that follows from empathy. You may not always understand what your partner is going through. You may even feel 'put off' by their response to adversity.

However, something happens when you can stop judging your partner and simply accept that 'it is what it is'. This frees you up to empathise and allows you to feel compassion. Then it's much easier to offer support in a way that's valued by your partner.

The basic message is: be kind to each other! If you wouldn’t dream of treating your best friend, mother, brother, boss, sister or anyone else in a certain way, then don’t treat your partner that way either. 

Accept each other – really!

There is very little else I can add to that other than: you cannot change your partner. Certainly people change when they meet the 'light of their life'. However, in a way they have chosen to change - in their own time, and in a way that feels authentic to them. If they have changed to just please you, in a sense you lose the person you fell in love with.

You can attempt to make your partner aware of things, ask for change, support and encourage them on their journey. BUT... it stops there!

It'll help if you're clearer on how your partner ticks. Watch this video to learn from Prof Helen Fisher...

Just in case you're wondering if you'll ever be able to accept your partner as he or she is - you may find my relationship test helpful in deciding if your relationship is worth saving.

Relationship advice for dealing with difficult times

Be willing to ride the waves

Of course you’re going to experience difficult times. If you're still relatively young, you may (or may not) have an unrealistic expectation of what lies ahead (I certainly did have!).

Ohhh, if only I could protect you from the inevitable challenges that lie ahead. Or maybe you've already had plenty of those.

However, the ups are as much a part of life as the downs. You’ll get through those challenging times though - be they relationship problems, issues with family, work, children, finances or personal problems. A crisis never lasts and there is an end to everything - the good and the bad times.

If you can learn to ride the waves together there's every chance that you’ll grow stronger as a couple. Even more so if you can accept that you're both likely to deal differently with adversity.

Having some problems right now? If so, I highly recommend you discuss it with a professional, licensed therapist. It won't be free, but you'll find it of enormous value. For further information, see my page on online relationship advice.

Protect what you have

Arguing ...?  Not a problem in principle, but you need to know when it gets out of hand. When you or your partner are beginning to lose control - stop!  That’s the point at which there's every chance that you’ll become personal.

Attacking each other as people, rather than asking for behaviour to change, is a definite way to undermine the health of your relationship. It creates resentment and a great deal of unhappiness.

Not sure what you're always arguing about? Then hop over to my article on problem solving strategies and answer the questions there.

The future

Renegotiate your 'contract'

Chance are, you didn't ever consider that you had a 'contract'. You do have one though, but it's an implied 'contract'. You're likely to have some firm understandings about some things, and 'kind of' agreed on other 'stuff'. You'll also have made huge assumptions about the rights and wrongs of all manner of things you'll both come across.

You both came into this relationship with your own gene pool, a history of interpreting the world in your own unique way and making up 'rules' about life based on your experiences.

This creates unconscious patterns, which only reveal themselves over time. Suddenly you find that you’re wanting or pushing for certain things to happen, but these had never been part of an agreement. Maybe it hadn't even occurred to you that they needed to be discussed.

I sometimes think that relationships should come with a 'renewal' date. You’ll periodically have to renegotiate the terms and conditions of your relationship or marriage. This means you’ll be able to accommodate changing circumstances, and will increase you self-awareness together with your knowledge and understanding of your partner.

One of the secrets of a happy relationship is to ensure that there is space for each of you to learn, change and grow.  It's unrealistic to expect you both to stay the same.

I can't therefore recommend highly enough that you discuss this with a professional counsellor at the first signs of trouble! To discover what relationship counselling is all about, see my article on what to expect from marriage counselling.

Your and your spouse's goals and your relationship goals

3 Ways to work with goals

  1. Create and maintain an interest in each other's goals.
  2. Consider if you can combine them - having joint goal helps to draw you closer.
  3. Brainstorm a list of relationship goals - all the things you'd want for your relationship.

'Almost' unconditional commitment

I'm saying 'almost' as there are always circumstances in which it's vital that you end your relationship. Invariably this relates to safety and security. There is no place for abuse - verbal, emotional or sexual - in any relationship. See my article on the signs of an abusive relationship for further information.

Commitment also involves loyalty and mutual trust. Interestingly though, biological anthropologist Prof Helen Fisher maintains that the news is not that human beings have extramarital affairs, but that they aim to be monogamous!

Prevent boredom slipping in by stealth

Well... I'm coming to the end of my article with the aim of giving you a ton of free advice and this is the last bit. Dealing with boredom is covered in Bored in your Relationship?  So if you’re feeling bored, or you simply want some ideas on how you can pep up your relationship, hop over there now for some inspiration!

Finally

You now know that you can't 'make' anyone happy, or 'make' anyone love you. Instead, you can only give the very best of you. You're responsible for your intent and contribution - but not for how these are received, or whether or not they'll make your partner truly happy.

Rest assured though that if you are truly happy with your role in the relationship, you'll sleep easy at night.

Please, rate this article ...

I really hope this article is of help to you. :-)

I frequently update my articles based on feedback, therefore I really value your vote.

Thank you so much in anticipation. :-)

Other interesting links

Steve Pavlina - List of Values

How to get immediate help from a licensed counsellor

Your problem is never too small or too big, too silly, too embarrassing or too complicated to get personal advice (anonymous if you want) from a licensed therapist. They'll be happy to help.

  • Click the image below and answer a few questions about yourself and your situation (it takes just a few minutes).
  • Choose how you want to pay (it's safe and secure).
  • Write down what's troubling you to start (chat, text, email, video-chat)...