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4 Tips for How to Bring Out the Best in Your Partner

Use these strategies to build your partner up and enhance your connection.

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1. Give your partner compliments about ways they're different from you.

People often think of differences as causing friction in relationships, and of course, they can be a source of relationship stress. However, differences can also help partners balance each other out. For instance, my partner is a bit less diligent than me in some respects. While this can drive me a little crazy, it also helps me realize when I'm going completely overboard and worrying about details most people wouldn't worry about.

Try a compliment along the lines of, "I love how we balance each other out when...."

Pick an area in which you think your partner tends to be the more reasonable person most of the time so that it doesn't sound like a backhanded compliment. The more you're prepared to acknowledge when your partner's approach is the better one, the more likely it is they'll do the same.

Notice when your partner handles a situation differently from how you would, but there are pros to their approach.

2. Give your partner compliments for strengths they don't recognize in themselves.

Sometimes we know our romantic partners better than they know themselves. What are the micro-strengths you see your partner displaying that they might completely overlook or take for granted?

This tip can be useful for strengths your partner has, but where they don't use that strength as often as they could, and you'd like them to do it more. For instance, perhaps your partner is pretty great at DIY, but tends to focus on the fact that it's hard work, rather than that they're great at persisting through the rough patches and getting the job done. They might see themselves as not good at it, because there are elements they struggle with, whereas you see them as a star for working through roadblocks, or you see the parts they're very skilled at.

3. Empower your partner to make decisions—don't let your partner be a "decision leech."

In The Healthy Mind Toolkit, I wrote about how partners and other family members can become decision leeches, meaning they are always asking you for help with decisions in order to remove the decision-making burden from themselves. For instance, they're in charge of a decision, but they send you a list of options and links and essentially pass the decision back to you.

You can bring out the best in your partner by empowering them to make decisions that they lack confidence with and helping them recognize when they know the choice they want to make and they're just looking for validation. You can try phrases like: "I think you've got a better sense of ______ than I do. You'll make a good decision."

Sometimes people defer choices to others, because they lack confidence in their decision-making skills. This can become a self-fulfilling prophecy when the person is always asking for help with run-of-the-mill choices. Also, see this podcast for a fun take on this topic.

4. See the nuances in your partner's nature.

People often get put in personality boxes. This can happen during childhood, or when someone's identity becomes very associated with their work role, or in a relationship when partners fall into certain roles. You can help your partner be their best self if you recognize the nuances in them. Perhaps they're a bit of a procrastinator, but in some domains, they've got more get-up-and-go or are more decisive than you are. Help them recognize the ways in which they're different from whatever personality box they've been shoved into (which likely has become part of their self-perception). Another example might be if your partner is impatient with some things, but very patient with others. Help them see their strengths and nuances. In The Healthy Mind Toolkit, I write about how we all have a dominant nature, but we also have strengths that are less dominant but still present.

Wrapping Up

Which of the above skills are you already good at? Where do you have the most potential for improvement? In what ways is your romantic partner good at building you up? In what ways do you wish they did that more? Could you lead by example in that domain, or ask them directly?

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