How To Be A Good Girlfriend

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boyfriend and girlfriend looking into each other's eyes
Love

Healthy, happy relationships seem like they should happen naturally, but learning how to be a good girlfriend requires practice and a little heartfelt effort.

The truth is, many of us lack the most basic skills required for all types of healthy relationships and situations in life. This is especially true today, when electronics have completely changed the way in which we communicate with one another.

While FaceTime, text messages, DMs and Snaps offer us endless new possibilities for connecting, they can also make life more complicated and increase the chances of misunderstandings and misinterpretations.

The good news is, many of the lessons from the past on how to be a good partner still hold true. That's because healthy relationships are timeless.

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What does a healthy relationship look like?

The key to being a good girlfriend is doing your part to maintain your healthy, happy relationship. That means valuing your partner's well-being, autonomy, values and opinions. It also means valuing all of those things in yourself, and finding a way to maintain that balance together.

Dr. John Gottman, a relationship expert known for decades of research into what makes relationships work (and predicting which ones will fail) and the man who coined the concept of love languages, insists that there is a "magic ratio" that is foundational to healthy, successful relationships.

"That 'magic ratio' is 5 to 1," Gottman explains. "This means that for every negative interaction during conflict, a stable and happy marriage has five (or more) positive interactions."

In healthy relationships, each partner makes sure that this ratio is met by doing and saying kind things throughout each and every day, and most people who achieve this goal don't even know the ratio exists. They simply enjoy being positive with the person they love, and avoid hurting their partner as much as possible.

Most importantly, a healthy relationship will not always be perfect or full of joy, but you should never feel as if it is dragging you down or affecting your self-esteem negatively.

With that in mind, here are a few ways to be a good girlfriend by doing your part to create a healthy, happy relationship where both you and your boyfriend feel valued and loved.

If you’re wondering what it takes on how to be a good girlfriend or how to be a good wife without coming on too strong or seeming desperate, read the list carefully:

11 Ways To Be A Good (Or Even Better) Girlfriend

1. Listen more, lecture less.

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So many people, including myself at times, are so focused on responding to what another is saying that they are missing the point and feelings involved with whatever is being talked about.

Here are some active listening concepts to keep in mind:

  • Pay attention and give your undivided attention.
  • Show you are listening through your nonverbal behavior and communication.
  • Provide feedback when it is appropriate. Do not give unsolicited advice or opinion.
  • Hold off from making judgments.
  • Respond appropriately and respectfully.
  • Avoid immediately making a situation about yourself or comparing your own experience to his.

All of this advice applies to listening in person as well as online or during FaceTime. Be present, pay attention, try not to multi-task.

2. Respect his prior relationships.

Put your feelings aside because there were people in their lives before you and they will continue to be in their lives (assuming these are people close to your partner).

So even if you don’t like some of them or even one, get over it. Be accepting and warm.

Even former romantic relationships need to be respected, no matter how jealous you feel when thinking or talking about them. You should both be able to talk about your exes (within reason, and with respect) and past relationships without shame.

Our past relationships influence who we are and what we feel in a major way, and if we feel like we have to keep those things bottled up, we aren't truly sharing our lives.

So instead of being mad that your boyfriend is friends with his ex on social media or getting jealous or enraged when he brings them up, take a deep breath and understand that when you love someone you have to make space for their whole past.

3. Support your boyfriend's goals.

There may be times where you feel you’re not completely on board with your partner’s goals whether it be because you do not fully understand it or think something else of it.

Regardless of your reasoning, it is important you support your partner and put your personal feelings aside, especially if it is something they have been wanting to accomplish for a long time.

Sure, that may mean you see him less while he pursues a graduate degree, beefs up for a fitness competition, or puts in extra time apprenticing at a tattoo shop — or whatever unique thing your guy is into — but that's OK. Supporting him now means time for you to grow as a person and proves to him that you're the real deal.

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4. Show enthusiasm for his interests and passions.

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His biggest passions and interests will usually obvious, but make sure to pay attention to the little details within them.

Ask questions, do a little research on your own, and learn what you can about what he likes.

That doesn't mean you become a carbon copy of your boyfriend, but a good girlfriend at least has working knowledge of her boyfriend's interests and hobbies, and understands exactly why he loves what he loves.

5. Communicate in a respectful manner.

Don’t swear at one another or insult each other. It is not effective and proves to be utterly useless in the end. Talk as equals, even when you disagree. Do not act superior to the other.

Communication is the most essential aspect of a relationship and needs to be taken seriously, regardless of whether you're the girlfriend, the wife, or even the boyfriend or husband!

Remember that when you're angry, your brain operates differently from when you're calm. You are not as able to think rationally, balance and measure your words, and being empathetic is harder.

When you start to feel rage or panic during a disagreement, take a deep breath and ask for a short break. Dr. Bill Cloke, a psychotherapist in Los Angeles, says that a 15 minute break is a good place to start. Cloke also suggests that you set a time to come back together and then try again, once all your raging hormones have settled down.

Once you come back after your break, Cloke suggests that you "Talk about how the incident affected you. Your experience. [Then] ask yourself, how can I see the issues from the other person’s point of view?"

This sets the stage for actually solving a problem and avoiding rehashing the fight at a later date.

RELATED: 5 Major Mistakes I've Made In My Relationship (And You Probably Have, Too)

6. Give him space without resentment.

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We all need our space. It’s not rude to need breathing room and he's not shunning you if he wants to do a few things on his own.

Wanting "me" time is not a crime nor should it be frowned upon in relationships, despite the fact that women are taught to be clingy to men and men are taught to push away when that clinginess becomes too much.

It is crucial to have your own time for many reasons so as not become dependent on one another. In order to be a good girlfriend (or wife, someday), you need to be unique and separate enough from him that you will always have things to talk about and different perspectives to add.

It's also important to note that everyone has different "alone time" needs, so talk about what would work best for you both. Your ex may have needed three or four nights alone each week, but your boyfriend may only need one.

Express your needs, too, and you'll be on your way to finding the perfect, healthy balance.

If he asks for space from the entire relationship, do your best to be thoughtful, respectful and empathetic so that he knows he has a safe, loving partner to come back to when he sorts himself out.

7. Respect his values and beliefs while maintaining your own.

We all differ from one another in some way whether it be politics or religion and it’s important to respect each other and understand that you can agree to disagree respectfully.

Don’t judge the other just because you both differ in some aspects of life. If you learn to embrace the differences you can learn a lot.

Dating is not an easy thing and as technology and other trends keep growing, the more complex it becomes. What I do know is that the principles of what constitutes a good girlfriend and a good wife versus a bad girlfriend and a bad wife remain relatively stable over time.

This list will help you be a better partner. None of us is the perfect partner but as long as we strive to be a better person than yesterday, we are doing all we can do.

8. Turn your phone off every once in a while.

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Yes, work needs you. So does your mom, your BFF and the dog groomer. But if you want to be a better girlfriend, you need to know when to switch it all off and have a little IRL face time with your man. You also need to talk to him about his phone use, should it feel excessive —without coming off as controlling.

He should reciprocate, of course, but someone has to take the first step and turn their phone off or set it aside and that may as well be you.

It's not practical to assume you'll never stare at your social media when you're chilling together or that you'll decline all calls, but setting aside at least a few hours a day just for couple time can be a game-changer.

It's also key to know when you should set your phone down and ignore it; like when he's talking to you, you're eating a meal, or when you're watching a movie or show together.

In those moments, you shouldn't have to be asked to listen or engage. Just proactively decide to put him first.

9. Be a safe place for your boyfriend to open up.

In our society, the woman is expected to be the caretaker and emotional one, whereas the man is supposed to suppress his feelings and emotions or else he’s a wimp. Sadly, that doesn't work for a lot of people — even in relationships that are very traditional.

For me personally, I find it very attractive when a man can show his emotions and open himself up to show some vulnerability, but he can't do that unless he knows he's safe, loved, and adored by you.

Don't try to solve his problems for him or tell him what he's done wrong when he opens up to you. Use phrases that show empathy, like, "I'm so sorry that happened" or "I can imagine how hard that must have been."

Give him a hug and tell him you love him. Even with guys, who aren't supposed to be touchy-feely (according to socciety), a big hug goes a long way!

Finally, keep his secrets and emotional experiences private. You may share everything with your best friends or family, but that doesn't mean he's comfortable with that. Being a safe place for a man's emotional expression sometimes means being a vault, and keeping this emotions safe and private.

10. Include him in your life.

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No, he's not going to go with you everywhere you go, but you should include him whenever it makes sense.

Unless it's a designated "girls night" you can invite him to the movies with you and your friends when it's appropriate. Include him in family dinners, work events and even in discussions about your plans or future.

Talk to him about your dreams, passions and hobbies so he feels like he really knows the inner-workings of you and not just the person you are when you're together.

Ask for his advice whenever you feel it's appropriate. Everyone likes to feel like they're helping, and as long as you aren't coming across as overly-needy, guys love to feel like the superhero who can help his sweetheart out in a time of need.

11. Don't nag him.

One of the most instantaneous ways to be a better girlfriend is to stop nagging your boyfriend.

Nagging is often considered a gendered thing that women do, but anyone can be a nag. If you're harping on or focusing on a problem or something you think he should change, you're nagging, and it's a habit that is not only annoying, it's demeaning.

Lots of people nag their partners about making a change or doing housework, but it's much healthier to let your boyfriend be who he is. His clothes, hair, and fitness habits should be left to him to make decisions about (his body, his choice — just as it is for your body).

As far as housework goes, have a conversation about what's important to you as far as chores and cleanliness and make a schedule for who does what, and when.

If it seems he forgot, give it some time. Don't jump on him right away — and don't just step in and do the chore yourself if it's going to make you resentful or irritated.

Wait until you're calm and not annoyed and bring up that you would like him to help more or follow through (depending on what the issue is), and be specific.

Then let it go.

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Brittney Lindstrom is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Certified Rehabilitation Counselor who has experience working with diverse and marginalized populations. Follow her on Twitter for more.