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6 Steps to Bringing Out the Best in Each Other

What are the 2 best things about your partner?

Lucky Business/Shutterstock
Source: Lucky Business/Shutterstock

It is often said that in the most successful relationships, partners bring out the best in each other. Sometimes, though, in the midst of the stresses of daily life, we can forget just who this best version of our partners and ourselves is. To rekindle feelings of love and esteem that might get lost in the everydayness of your life together, try this bonding exercise. (While this exercise is directed at people in relationships, others can adapt it; Instead of doing it with a romantic partner, try it with a close friend or family member.)

1. Find the time.

Find some time in which you and your partner can be alone in a quiet, relaxed environment where you can do this exercise in the best possible state of mind. Don't do this soon after a fight. If you've been fighting, it'll be too difficult to see the forest for the trees; you'll see the fight as indicative of your entire relationship, clouding your thoughts about your partner.

2. Two for them.

To begin, each of you should write down at least two positive characteristics of the other person (no peeking!). For example, does she have a great sense of humor, and is she able to poke fun at herself rather than turn others into the butt of her jokes? Is he a great listener who will hear you talk about your life and your concerns without ever making it about him? Is she calm and reasonable in the middle of a crisis, looking for ways to make a situation better instead of giving up or giving in?

3. ... and two for you.

Next, each of you should write down at least two positive characteristics of your own personality. This may be difficult, especially for those who grew up in households that crushed their self-esteem through passive-aggressiveness or emotional neglect. If you can't think of things you like about yourself, try to imagine what your partner wrote down about you. Perhaps they like that you care about the well-being of others and believe in the importance of personal growth and strengthening bonds. (The proof? You're doing this exercise!).

4. Sharing is caring.

Now, share your lists. Tell your partner what you admire about him or her and why. Give examples of the times and ways in which your partner displayed the traits you admire. Listen while your partner does the same. Now is not the time to brush off a compliment: Your partner is telling you sincerely why they love you. Believe them.

5. Become models.

Together, build a character model out of these traits: Take the traits you admire in your partner and the traits you admire in yourself and put them together to form a model of your best selves, in your eyes and in your partner's eyes. If, for example, you wrote that you admired your partner's ability to stay calm in a crisis, ask them to give you a few tips on how they stay so levelheaded. It's good to know what your partner loves about you: "I love you" has a lot more meaning (and, for those who struggle with self-esteem, easier to digest) when you know what it is, exactly, that your partner loves.

6. A world of opportunities.

Type up your new character model and print out two copies, one for each of you. Then, for the next week, first thing in the morning, look over the list, and as you go through your day, keep a lookout for opportunities to let your best self shine—and keep an eye out for opportunities to borrow from some of your partner's positive characteristics, too.

In my work as a marriage and family therapist, I have found that exercises like this one help people to think more positively about themselves and their relationship. This exercise is half a look at how you can improve yourself, and half a look at what already makes you great. If you're always intensely focused on future self-improvement, you may miss the wonderfulness of yourself in the present. Now, share a glass of wine with your partner or a box of chocolates (or both) and enjoy an evening of mutual admiration.

To learn more about how you can improve your relationship and self-esteem, please visit my website blog at, sign up for my newsletter, or join me at one of my upcoming mindfulangerworkshops.

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