I think deep down we know if we're a good partner or not. If you've been in a long string of short relationships and you usually aren't the one ending things, bad news: You might need to step it up. On the flip side, if you've had some stable relationships and/or you're with someone right now who seems pretty happy to be with you on a daily basis, you're probably a good partner. But sometimes knowing how to tell if you're a good partner is definitively tricky.
That said, there is one weird indicator that you're a good partner: You recognize when your partner is reaching out to you — even when you're in a fight. This means that you see their effort to work on the relationship even in negative situations. And, they know that you'll listen with an open mind and be rational about the constructive criticism.
In a 2015 study published in the Journal of Family Psychology, researchers from the University of Illinois asked 98 same-sex couples to record their fights for 14 days and answer questions on how they responded to them. Did they take a positive approach? Or walk out? Those who took the positive approach not only showed to be constructive communicators, but showed they wanted to improve their relationship, too.
"It's important because when you feel negative toward your partner, you're not paying attention to the efforts he or she is making. That's a problem for you because you feel like your partner's not investing in the relationship, but it's also a problem for your partner because they may actually be doing positive things that you're not noticing," Brian Ogolsky, a U of I professor of human development and family studies said in a press release.
So if your partner is reaching out to you and you're pushing them away, here are a few pointers to deal with the matter — and become a better partner.
1. Be Open
It's hard to do this, but if your partner brings up the fact that he doesn't like how flirty you are with other people, try not to tell them they are wrong right away. Instead, remember that this is a sign that you're a good partner in the first place, albeit a strange one — your boyfriend or girlfriend is comfortable enough with you to come to you and say, Hey, I don't love this and want to fix this.
Practice nonviolent communication. Don't make this the time to air your concerns too. Just show up and hear what your partner has to say — and apologize if need be.
2. Be Nonjudgmental
Do not be defensive. If your partner is upset about something, hear them out. It could be something that you personally think is silly, stupid or pointless. Regardless of your opinion, just give your partner the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they make a suggestion that you don't want to do. If you try it, though, you might find that it's not as ridiculous as you think. And if they ask you to do something that you ultimately don't think will work for you, you can bring that up after you've tried it.
In other words, judgment is a total mood killer. Whatever your partner asks of you (within reason), they likely have solid cause. Give it a shot. Worst case scenario: You come to them and tell them what's on your mind. Two-way street!
3. Be Kind
Never throw things in your partner's face. If your partner feels comfortable with coming to you with a problem, listen — and don't take the opportunity to just bring up an issue of your own. There is a time and a place for that, but now is neither the time nor the place. Kindness goes a long way, and your reaction to a legit concern is going to inform your partner's beliefs about you in the future.
So be nice. Even if you're tired. Even if you feel like flinging something back in your partner's face or shutting them out. I promise it'll work out a whole lot better for both of you in the long run. And if you already do all of these things, congratulations: It might be strange, but recognizing your partner is invested in your relationship with you and have an open and honest dialogue means that you're probably a pretty damn awesome girlfriend.
Want more of Bustle's Sex and Relationships coverage? Check out our new podcast, I Want It That Way, which delves into the difficult and downright dirty parts of a relationship, and find more on our Soundcloud page.