In an ideal world, everyone would be a respectful, thoughtful partner who makes dating seem like a breeze. But in reality, dating — especially in your 20s — can be a hellscape full of mixed signals, heartache, and commitment issues. Amidst all this chaos, you might find yourself wondering if there are signs you're good at dating, or if you'll just be left to hope you're not as much of a f*ck-up as everyone else.
The only secret to being "good at dating" is being the best partner you can be. But sometimes, being a good partner is easier said than done. You can be the best advice-giver in the world, but as soon as you are in the situation yourself, all hell breaks loose and you find yourself behaving in ways that you'd previously deemed unacceptable. You don't have to be perfect all the time, but the mark of a good partner is someone who, above all, is respectful and honest, and is always willing to communicate when the going gets tough.
Here are seven qualities that, if you possess them, are signs that you make an excellent partner to whomever is lucky enough to be dating you. And if you think you could use some work, don't worry: Everyone has the potential to ditch their bad dating habits and become an awesome boyfriend, girlfriend, FWB, or whatever label you fall under.
1. You're Independent
Codependency is almost never healthy in a relationship. It might sound cliché, but the adage that you have to be happy with yourself before you can be happy with someone else is really true. Your partner should complement you, not complete you, and you should be able to stand on your own two feet before diving into something romantic. If you're independent and dating someone, you can enjoy their support and companionship while the two of you lead individually fulfilling lives.
2. You're Straightforward
There are all kinds of dating styles: Some people prefer to keep it casual, some are into monogamy, some polyamory...there's no one "correct" way to conduct your romantic affairs. The only thing that really matters is that you're upfront — from Day One — about what you want from your partner. About 99 percent of my personal heartache has come from that awful feeling of being led on by someone who I thought wanted more, only to have them let me down in the end. If you're honest from the beginning about what you're looking for, it's going to lead to a lot of happiness and a lot less confusion on both sides.
3. You Value Communication
Aside from being honest about what you want in the beginning, you should also maintain an openness when it comes to your feelings throughout the course of the relationship. The way you and your partner communicate can really make or break your relationship, and the two of you should work to find a method of communication that works for the both of you, not just one person. That kind of seamless communication can take work, but if you're willing to talk openly about issues rather than being closed off, that's a clear sign that you'll be a good partner in the long run.
4. You're Non-Judgmental
In a relationship of any kind, your partner should always feel safe around you, and trust that, if they confide in you, you won't judge them but rather do your best to help them in any way they need. Relationships are about teamwork, and whether you've been with someone for five months or five years, you shouldn't scoff at them. It's demeaning and can be seriously damaging if you feel that your partner is always judging you, whether it's for your new haircut, your kinks, or your favorite guilty pleasure TV show. If your partner says something you don't agree with, have a constructive conversation, but don't immediately shut him or her down.
5. You're Comfortable With Your Sexuality
It's hard to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship and sex life if you aren't comfortable in your own skin yet. Whether you are the kind of person who takes things slow or if you have a high libido and place a lot of value on having an active sex life, the most important thing is that you're aware of what works for you and what you want when it comes to sex, because feeling confident about communicating your wants and needs is the first step to mutual pleasure. Sex is a huge part of any relationship (assuming you're not abstinent), and unless you're comfortable with your own sexuality, you can't get sexually comfortable with a partner.
6. You're Thoughtful
When people ask me what traits my potential partner *must* possess, thoughtfulness is always at the top of the list (right behind "morbid sense of humor" and "man bun," obvi). Thoughtfulness is an often underrated quality that can really separate the good partners from the great partners. Being thoughtful can take many forms, but the general premise is this: You're considerate of others' feelings, and actively show your partner that you understand and care about them. Thoughtfulness doesn't mean you buy your SO flowers every other day, but it does mean that you're attentive to their needs and will go out of your way to make sure they are being met (and in a good relationship, this is reciprocated).
7. You Understand Compromise
Sometimes, your partner wants to go out to the bar when all you want to do is stay at home in your pajamas. The key to any relationship? Compromise. If there is an imbalance where one person always gets his or her way and the other partner is always bending to their will, that's a sure sign of an unhealthy relationship. Even in the early stages of a relationship, someone who's good at dating will be willing to compromise if the situation calls for it. There's nothing to be gained by throwing a tantrum — be mature and work out a solution, and make sure that one person's needs aren't being shunted to the side time and time again.
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