Moving boxes lined the walls of my house as I packed my belongings. I had stuffed them to the breaking point with books from my shelves. Reaching for another box and another stack of books, my hand hovered in midair. My finger trailed along the spines as I read the titles. One after another was all about how to be a better partner and wife.
You Are A Good Partner or Spouse
I set one book in a stack, then another, and another. By the time all was said and done, I had fifteen books telling me how to become a better wife. Fifteen! That’s one for every year I had been married to my abusive ex. He had even bought some of them for me.
I sat down on the carpet and thumbed through them. A laugh broke from my throat. Fifteen books, all worn and highlighted from my desperate attempts to find some wisdom between their pages. Fifteen books, and not one of them told me this truth: You are a good wife.
That was a truth I hadn’t realized before. As long as I was genuinely trying to be my best self and love my husband, I was a great wife. Yes, there’s always room for learning and improvement, and grace is needed to grow through our mistakes. But the act of committing to another person, promising to do my best to love and respect them, and striving to grow? That was the foundation of being a good partner. And it took me fifteen years of abuse and lies to realize it.
Gaslighting, Lies, and Insecurity
Emotional abuse ran like a river through my former marriage, washing away the foundations of anything that could be called good. Everything that I did received sharp criticism from my husband, and my best attempts were never good enough. When things went wrong, I received the blame. That’s not to say I didn’t make some epic mistakes (because I did). But soon after saying “I do,” I noticed a pattern. The house was never clean enough, dinner was overcooked, my hours at work were lacking, and my paycheck followed suit. Every argument was my fault, caused by my overreacting or misunderstanding. There were even times when he accused me of being crazy, malicious, or lying to get my way. (This, my friend, is called gaslighting, and it’s a severe form of emotional and mental abuse.)
Young, naïve me had never even heard the term before, and I had no idea for years that this abusive behavior was what daily sent me reeling. My self-worth was trampled, and my best intentions and desperate attempts to do better, to be better, paved the way to hell.
Overcoming Our Insecurities
To this day, I am terrified of screwing up in my relationships. Every day I wonder if I am good enough and what I can do to be better. Half the time, I’m secretly panicked that I’m messing up. And sometimes, I feel that urge to pile on the books and open every browser tab to find out how to be a great partner. My guess is that you have felt that at some point too, or you know someone who feels that way.
I took a few minutes to search on Google. Searches on how to be a better partner, wife, and husband each returned over 4 billion results. That’s an overwhelming amount of articles to sift through. While I know each of us desires to be the best partner we can, it also shows me that there is a lot of insecurity out there.
A healthy marriage or partnership requires a lot of work, dedication, patience, and grace. It’s not easy, but let me tell you, it’s worth it. So where to start? Let’s take a look at five basic truths about how to be a better partner or spouse to the one you love.
5 Truths About How To Be A Better Partner
1. Realize You ARE a Good Partner
If you’re reading this post, that shows me that you love your significant other and want to have a deep, healthy, and thriving relationship with them. You want to become a better person for yourself and the one you love. The fact that you’re willing to work for it and do what it takes to be a fantastic spouse or partner shows that you already are one.
2. Recognize That You Are Growing
We all have our shortcomings and make mistakes (sometimes with epic flair). There are so many things to learn, explore, and discover. Those discoveries help us grow. That’s what life is about! Trial and error are how we humans tend to learn best. If we can accept that and give ourselves the grace to not get it right the first time, we can grow in healthy ways, and so can our relationships. Be patient and kind to yourself as you recognize this fact and realize that your significant other is growing and learning too.
Take the time to communicate with your significant other. Find communication styles that work best for the two of you. Listen and ask questions when you talk. Take the time to see a situation through their eyes or learn the history behind what inspires them to think a certain way. Schedule times to connect, talk, and play together. Even if it’s a fifteen-minute sunset walk or an impromptu snowball fight, prioritize that time together. Give them your complete attention. Offer loving touches and let them know you are available to them. Little moments can become big connection points, stir up some healing laughter, inspire us, and help us to learn about the person we love.
4. Speak Life
Life rushes by so fast, and it can be easy to get caught up in the emotion and pace of it all. We can become weary and cranky and either say things we don’t mean or forget to say things we do. Make it a point to speak life into your relationship. Regularly point out something you respect or admire about your partner or highlight one of their strengths. Acknowledge the things they do – even if it’s as mundane as taking out the trash. Express gratitude for them and your relationship. Validate them and their feelings. Encourage each other to learn and grow, even in the most challenging times, and let them know that your relationship is a safe place for them to do that.
5. Throw Out The Books
Look at your bookshelves, Kindle, and Internet search history. Have you been frantic about finding ways to be a better partner? Is it taking up valuable time that you could be spending with your significant other? Throw those books out and clear out that search history.
It’s okay to do some research and find helpful resources when you are spinning your wheels and need some fresh ideas and inspiration. But do you know what’s the most helpful? Ask your partner what they need or what you could do better next time. Every person is unique and has a unique way of approaching life. Communication between you and your love is what will teach you the most, not a generic self-help book.
What Will You Do Next?
What’s your game plan? What will you do next? I’ll leave you a few closing ideas below that you might choose to try. Can you think of others? Please leave your thoughts in the comments, or send me an email. I love to discover new ways to grow.
- Leave yourself a note somewhere that you can see every day and remind yourself that you are amazing.
- Think of one area in your relationship that you would like to improve. Then brainstorm a few ideas you might try to grow in that area. You can choose to do this alone or with your partner. But start with only one so that you don’t feel overwhelmed.
- Plan a play date with your spouse or partner. Make it a point to get out of the house and do something fun. It can be a favorite pastime you share or a time to discover a new activity. Sharing laughter will make it all the better.
- Make a list of ways you can speak life to your partner. What things do you admire about them? What are their strengths? Tell them one thing a day.
- Discover each other’s love languages. Jot down some ways that you can show your spouse or partner love in ways most meaningful to them.
- If your marriage is struggling and you think there is no hope, don’t throw in the towel just yet. Try a marriage intensive, such as Hope Restored.
Remember, my friend, you are worthy, you are amazing, and you are already great.
© 2022 Lainey La Shay