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How to Be a Better Girlfriend: 14 Tips from a Former Therapist

In today’s post we are going to explore some tips about how to be a better girlfriend to your partner.

Finding a relationship and securing it seems to be the focus of many relationship blogs. You can read 10 Ways to Find True Love all day long, and it will mean nothing if you don’t know how to keep it once you find it. Despite the difficulties of modern dating, finding love just might be the easy part. Maintaining it takes a little more effort.

It doesn’t matter if you’re new to the relationship or if you’ve been with the same person for years. Even if you think you’re an amazing girlfriend, there is always room for improvement. Here are 14 expert tips on how to be a better girlfriend to your partner.

How to Be a Better Girlfriend: 14 Expert Tips

As a former therapist, much of what I’m going to share with you comes from my background in psychology as well as my time spent working with couples and families, but some of it comes from the good, old-fashioned school of hard knocks.

I’ve been a girlfriend, and even at my best and most delightful, there were ways I could have been better that I see now due to a combination of massive personal growth and the benefits of hindsight. There are things I would have done better if only I’d known. With that being said, here are a few ways to become a better girlfriend.

1. Be Authentic

Putting your best foot forward is natural in dating, but what would be better is to just walk in being yourself from the start. Wouldn’t the world be an amazing place if people didn’t pretend to be better or different than they are? When it comes to dating and relationships, it would certainly save time.

Being authentic about who you are and what you want allows the other person to truly know you and to make informed decisions about the relationship.

When you put on a front for others in an attempt to people-please, you prevent the other person from making a decision using all the facts. Hiding dealbreakers may seem innocent, but it’s not.

Besides, no one can truly know you and love you if the real you never actually shows up in the relationship. If you want to be a better girlfriend, start by taking off the mask and being real with the one you love.

Don’t say something is fine if it’s not, and don’t pretend you like something if you don’t. Be yourself, and if you find that who you truly are isn’t accepted by your partner, you’re in the wrong relationship.

2. Be Present

I feel like many relationships fail because we’re so caught up in pain from the past, fear for the future, and stress from today that we don’t tune into the present moment with our partners. If you want to be a better girlfriend, put down the phone. Turn off your preferred streaming service. Make time to be fully present in the relationship.

As you take the time and tune in, you’re letting your partner know that you value them and what they have to say. Creating space in the day to give someone your undivided attention may be a challenge, but even a few minutes of quality time could improve the relationship.

Recommended read: Good Listeners: 7 Things They Do Differently

3. Ask, Don’t Assume

One of the primary reasons relationships fail is due to poor communication. For a world of people who never stop talking, we don’t always say the important things. If you truly want to improve as a girlfriend, start asking rather than assuming.

In fact, take it a step further, and be generous in your thoughts about your partner. Assume that if something hurt your feelings, it may have been unintentional. Assume you could have misunderstood something and seek clarification. Before you take a massive leap to a disastrous conclusion, open your mouth and ask.

This extends to other areas of communication. If you want something, ask for what you need. If you expect something, communicate that clearly rather than expecting your partner to read your mind. Learn to speak up and talk it out rather than letting misunderstandings grow into resentment.

4. Listen More, Talk Less

As a general rule for relationships regardless of gender, it’s a good idea to listen more and talk less. It’s not really about the volume of what is said but the quality. Sometimes, when we talk a lot, we’re taking up the space someone else might use to open up and share more about themselves. Seek out the balance between how much you talk and how much you listen, making an effort to listen more and listen better.

Sometimes, listening means paying attention to their silences as well as their words. There are times you might rush to fill the silence when holding space for your discomfort to give them more time might have resulted in more intimacy in the relationship.

Talking a lot can stem from anxiety or simply a desire to connect more with the other person, but it’s also important to allow a mutual sharing of thoughts and feelings. Conversations should flow more equally, and being a better girlfriend could simply be a matter of being a better listener.

5. Learn Their Love Language

If you really want to be a better girlfriend, you’ll learn their love language. The 5 love languages are words of affirmation, physical affection, quality time, acts of service, and receiving gifts. You don’t just need to identify how they prefer to receive love. You also need to know how they prefer to give it.

This is where some problems can start in relationships. You could be showered with gifts when you really only want to hear them say they love you. Those gifts might be their way of showing love, and if you don’t see that, you might think that the love you want isn’t on offer.

When love languages differ, there’s work to be done. You both have to practice getting better at giving people love in the way they want to receive it even though you will likely still give it in other ways, too. This lets the other person know that you care about their preferences without discarding your own.

6. Do Your Inner Work

One of the most important ways you can be a better partner is to do the deep inner work of healing. Your partner can’t heal you no matter how good they make you feel. No one else is responsible for your happiness but you.

Learn your triggers and unpack your baggage. Make an appointment with a therapist and talk out the areas that trip you up. There’s only so much self-help that will help you. Sometimes, you need an expert’s guidance to see your own blind spots and figure out how to manage them.

As you heal, you’ll naturally become a better girlfriend. You’ll be less reactive and more compassionate. You’ll have more clarity about who you are and what you want.

Naturally, if your relationship is unhealthy, you’ll learn how to be a better girlfriend … to someone else. But if your relationship is strong, healing will only ever make you stronger.

7. Fight Fair

A good girlfriend addresses conflict in the relationship. A better girlfriend does it while fighting fair. Don’t call names or launch a personal attack. If you can have an entire argument while staying respectful to your person, you’re on the right track.

When things get heated, what kind of girlfriend are you? Do you lash out? Do you shut down? Learn how to speak up when you have a problem but do it in a way that opens up communication rather than shutting it down. When you love someone, you shouldn’t fight dirty and push all their buttons. You should fight fair because the problem is the problem, not your partner.

8. Appreciate Your Partner

If you want to improve your relationship, don’t take your partner for granted. Appreciate them. You can tell them how much you appreciate them, but it’s important to show it, too. And it’s important to show it on days other than special occasions. A nice gift on a holiday is thoughtful, but a surprise gift just because you were thinking of them is so much better.

Appreciation is important in any relationship but especially in romantic ones. Saying “thank you” is something you might forget to do when you expect certain things in a relationship. When your love made you a cup of coffee, did you say thank you? It’s the little things that often mean the most.

If you’re struggling in your relationship but genuinely trying to be a better girlfriend, take a moment to look for things to appreciate about your partner. Even if you haven’t been getting along lately, start seeking out things to be grateful for, and you’re likely to find them.

If you have to look really hard to see it, you’re either in a troubled headspace, a troubled relationship, or both. If you love someone, there should be much you can appreciate about them.

Recommended read: How to Make Your Man Feel Appreciated: 7 Unique Tips

9. Stable the Four Horsemen

Relationship researcher John Gottman describes the four horsemen of a relationship as Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling. Engaging in these behaviors damages your relationship. If you’ve noticed these traits in your relationship, you may have a lot of work to do to get back on a healthy course.

Stable for the four horsemen and learn to recognize them in your relationship when they gallop in. Instead of being critical, be more supportive. Communicate with respect rather than contempt. Listen and try to empathize rather than defaulting into defensiveness. Talk about how you’re feeling rather than stonewalling the other person.

If you notice any of the four horsemen in your relationship, it’s not a good sign. In fact, it could mean that your relationship is heading for the ending if you and your partner can’t learn a new way of relating to one another. Watch out for these behaviors, and incorporate new, healthier habits into your relationship dynamic.

10. Understand Adult Attachment Styles

Attachment styles may form in childhood, but they follow you throughout your lifetime. It’s important to understand how you’re attached and how your partner is attached. The common attachment styles are secure, avoidant, anxious, and disorganized (or anxious-avoidant). Secure attachment is the best kind. It’s the one where you feel stable and secure in relationships and can connect easily with others.

People with avoidant, anxious, or disorganized attachment don’t do this. They’ve learned early on that attachment presents challenges. The avoidant try to dodge commitment. The anxious are desperate for reassurance and love. The disorganized have elements of both that create massive upheaval because they pull you close but also push you away.

Do you know which attachment style you have and what your partner has? Understanding attachment can help you navigate differences in your relationship. It can help you better understand how to relate to one another if you understand why they might seem clingy and desperate for reassurance (anxious) or a flight risk any time permanence is mentioned (avoidant or disorganized).

Talking about how you experience intimacy and any fears that come up is a great way to be a better girlfriend. It’s a vulnerable conversation, but it could help you open up the doors to understanding your partner more and having them better understand you.

11. Be Independent

Every relationship needs quality time together, but it also needs space. Learn to be independent with independent thoughts and interests that have nothing to do with your relationship. Being able to have a strong sense of self will make you a better girlfriend.

Being independent can come in many forms. Financial independence is one that I highly recommend. Being able to take care of yourself gives you so much freedom in the choices you make. Making astute financial decisions can benefit you in the long run and set you up for success no matter what happens in your relationship.

Independence and a strong sense of self can make you a powerful partner — an equal and not a subordinate. Knowing who you are and what you like is a gift. It can help you be a strong partner rather than an overly dependent one.

12. Be Loyal

Loyalty is a requirement for being a better girlfriend. Fidelity is one aspect of that loyalty — but only a small portion of it. Badmouthing your partner to your friends isn’t being loyal. There’s a difference between venting to trusted friends and constantly criticizing the person you’re partnering. Are you loyal to your partner even when they aren’t around?

Being loyal also means not flirting with people you’d date if you were single while you’re with your partner. Some people refer to that as micro-cheating, but there’s nothing micro about it. In fact, it can be a prelude to actual cheating, and it can break down your relationship when you devote your energy, attention, and affection to someone other than your partner.

13. Be Their Best Friend

The real trick to being a better girlfriend is to be their best friend. If your best friend doesn’t immediately text you back, do you get emotional and think they aren’t your friend anymore? Hopefully not. Apply this same rationale to your romantic relationships. Allow a little healthy breathing room in the relationship and add some faith in your partner to the mix.

Be their best friend. Tell them how you’re feeling, and give them space to open up to you without being shamed for what they’re thinking or feeling. Be their biggest supporter and the person who can challenge them when they need it.

Laugh with them and look forward to spending time just being together. The best kind of girlfriend is the one who acts like a best friend with all the benefits of a romantic lover, too.

14. Be Accountable

Want to be a better girlfriend? Be accountable for your behavior. When you mess up, own it. Apologize when you’re in the wrong. Leave defensiveness and gaslighting behind so that you can admit that you sometimes make mistakes.

You probably won’t feel like a better girlfriend while you’re apologizing for terrible behavior or an overreaction. But you will be. Being accountable is powerful. It shows that you recognize you aren’t perfect.

It shows that you can put in the effort not only to apologize but to make repairs to the relationship and do what you can to make it right. It’s letting your partner know that you don’t feel good about hurting them even when it’s on accident and that you’re going to try your best to do better.

Better Girlfriend Energy: In Summary

If you want to bring better girlfriend energy to your relationship, you don’t have to start surprising them with thoughtful little gifts all the time (although that’s not a bad idea). You just have to pay attention. Listen to who they are and what they want and share your true self with them. Appreciate them for who they are and always be the loudest one cheering in their corner.

Even if you’re the most amazing girlfriend in history, you’re not perfect. No one is. You might make mistakes, but if you own up to them and keep trying, you’re doing okay.

Bringing better girlfriend energy to the table doesn’t have to be complicated. You wake up every day and decide that you’re going to love this person. Even if you’re cranky. Even if they’re cranky. Even when it’s hard.

Rinse and repeat. Every single day, you just show up and you try. And every time you do, you can be confident that you’re doing what you can to be a better partner.

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Photo by Edward Cisneros on Unsplash

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