There is so much misinformation out there on what it takes to be a great girlfriend. It’s not about cooking his favorite food or wearing sexy lingerie or mastering some crazy sexual trick (not saying these things don’t help, but they don’t get to the heart of the matter!). Understanding how men think and what they need in a relationship makes an enormous difference in the way you are able to relate to one another.
The top prerequisite for being in a great relationship is to be your best self. A trap that many people in relationships fall into is blaming their partner when problems arise. Rather than seeing what they can do to make things better, they blame him for not being what they want and think that if only he did XYZ, then everything would be fine.
It doesn’t work that way, though. You can’t ever make someone what you want them to be. All you can do is bring your best. When you do this, the other person will usually rise up and match you at this level.
Here are six ways to be the most amazing girlfriend ever:
1. Be Direct (Not Passive Aggressive)
The majority of problems in a relationship occur because the woman expects a man to meet her needs, and then resents him when he doesn’t. She doesn’t ask for what she wants because he should just “know.” She may drop hints to help him out and then become even more annoyed when he doesn’t pick up on them. The man, in turn, gets frustrated that nothing he does seems to be good enough. Eventually he gets discouraged and stops trying and she feels even more resentful. Neither side has bad intentions, the problem is they aren’t communicating properly and the reason is because men and women have very different styles of communication. Men do not pick up on nuances and subtleties in the same way women do, they need things spelled out in a clear and direct manner.
If you’re mad at him, don’t act passive aggressive until he asks what’s wrong (to which you may reply “nothing,” and he’ll take that to mean nothing is wrong and you will continue to simmer because he should freakin’ know it’s something!), just tell him what it is he did wrong. In relationships it’s not usually what you say, it’s how you say it. If you tell a guy something he is doing that is upsetting or hurting you in a loving, compassionate way, I guarantee he will try to fix it. If you come from a place of anger or resentment, he’ll shut down and will be less motivated to correct it. Freud is regarded as one of the most brilliant minds in psychology and even he had no idea what women want, so how do you expect the average guy to do it?
Most arguments in relationships stem from deeper underlying issues that never get discussed or resolved. Maybe a woman feels like her guy doesn’t really care about her, or isn’t committed to her because he isn’t as attentive as he was in the beginning of the relationship, and instead of being direct about it, she freaks out on him if he doesn’t call her back one night or doesn’t do the dishes after she slaved away cooking dinner for him. From there a big fight may ensue over something trivial while the real issue goes untouched. When you want something, or don’t want something, just tell him.
2. Appreciate Him
Most women don’t realize how starved men are for appreciation, I certainly had no idea until I started writing about relationships full-time. The problem is that we usually love others the way we like to feel love. Women typically feel loved when a man is being giving and attentive to her and her needs. In turn, many women will be extra giving to their man, and while this is very nice and appreciated, it’s not what men really crave.
What a man deeply desires is feeling acknowledged and appreciated for what he provides. He wants to feel like his efforts were a success–this applies to everything he does from taking you out for a fancy dinner to taking out the trash.
If he takes you out on a nice date, acknowledge and appreciate him for it and tell him you had an amazing time. Men are typically more responsive to compliments about something they have done rather than who they are. Women don’t usually realize this because women like general compliments of the you’re so pretty/nice/fun/caring sort. Telling a man he’s thoughtful doesn’t have the same impact as saying something he did or provided was thoughtful, such as: “Thank you for doing the dishes, that was so thoughtful of you.”
When a woman really sees and appreciates her man, it makes him feel like the ultimate winner and he will do anything to keep her happy.
Another important relationship skill is to try and see the intention behind an action, and appreciate that. I have a personal example for this. Years ago I was dating a guy and one night he called and asked if he could come over. It was getting late and I was exhausted, but he said he’d be over in a half hour so I agreed. An hour and half later he still hadn’t arrived and I was fuming! Where could he be? Why is he even bothering to come over this late? Why do I have to wait up for him when I just need sleep! He finally showed up carrying something that smelled delicious. I immediately went off on him for making me wait up for him and he sheepishly said, “I’m sorry, I wanted to surprise you and bring over a quesadilla from that place you love because I know you’ve been working so hard and barely have time to eat.” Even though I was starving and had been fiending for a quesadilla, my anger didn’t subside and the rest of the night was uncomfortable and tense.
The mistake I made was in looking at the action (him being late), rather than the intention (him wanting to do something nice to me happy). I’m not saying I shouldn’t have been annoyed by his lateness, but the night probably would have gone a lot differently had I appreciated his good intentions…and then after I could have nicely mentioned that the next time there’s an hour-long line at the place he should just buy me a bag of chips and call it a day!
No one is perfect and no matter how great your relationship, there will be times when he isn’t doing something exactly the way you’d like him to. You’ll get a lot further, and do a huge service to your relationship, if you focus on what he is doing right rather than on what he isn’t.
3. Give Him Space When He Needs It
Another major difference between men and woman is in the way they handle stress and difficulties. While women typically seek out their friends and want to to talk about it, men would rather retreat into the proverbial man cave and deal with it on their own. A woman might get upset when this happens and think he’s shutting her out, but it really has nothing to do with her, it’s just how he deals with things.
If your boyfriend seems stressed and begins to withdraw, just let him be. Don’t coddle him or offer unsolicited advice or get on his case about why he isn’t confiding in you. If he wants to talk about it with you, he will. If he doesn’t and you continue to push him, you will just be another source of stress in his life that he needs to deal with and he’ll withdraw even further.
Men intuitively know that it isn’t easy for a woman to give him space when he needs it, and if you can do it without feeling angry or resentful towards him, you’ll be the woman who touches him more deeply than any other.
MORE: Why Guys Withdraw
4. Maintain Your Own Life Outside of the Relationship
This tip isn’t just for his sake, it’s for your own. I swear sometimes I feel like I should throw a goodbye party when a friend of mine gets a boyfriend because she’ll literally fall off the map! I know I won’t be seeing her at Sunday brunches or fun nights out. She won’t want to come away with the girls for the weekend. Getting face time with her will never be easy and eventually you give up and resign yourself to the fact that you’ll either see her again at her wedding, or if she becomes single again (in which case, she’ll be back in full force and down for anything!).
It’s not just my friends, women make this mistake all the time (myself included!). They get into a relationship and the guy becomes the sole center of their universe. This is never healthy! For one thing, it kind of puts your relationship in a holding pattern and creates a scenario where you can be dating for years and years without taking the next step. If a guy is getting all of you, all the time, there’s no reason for him to take that extra step, but this is a whole other discussion.
Another issue is your relationship can’t be your only source of happiness and fulfillment, you need to have a balanced life with several components filling you up in different areas. If you throw all of that away for your guy, then you add a lot of pressure to the relationship and will never feel completely satisfied with what you’re getting from the relationship (mostly because no one can be your everything). You may start to resent your partner and feel that he owes you more since you gave up so much for him, but that’s not fair because the sacrifices you made were your choice. Another reason not maintaining your own life outside of the relationship is problematic is you may end up staying in a bad relationship for far longer than you should have because, well, you have nothing else to go back to anything.
Men typically fall in love with a woman in her absence, not her presence. If you’re always there he won’t experience that deepening of the bond. To keep your relationship fresh and invigorating, it’s essential to have time apart to do your own things. It gives you a break from the emotional intoxication of relationships so you can see things more objectively and it takes some pressure off the relationship so it can unfold more organically. I know it’s tempting to hang out with him every time he asks, I know it’s flattering when a guy wants so much of your time, I know you may think it’s because he is just so crazy about you… and maybe he is, but giving in every single time is just not a good strategy. If he’s a decent guy, he’ll respect your boundaries and will encourage you to do your own thing on occasion.
5. Take Care of Yourself
Don’t stop working out, eating healthy, getting waxed, shaving your legs, blow-drying your hair, or any other healthy or beautifying activities that were a part of your life pre-relationship. Yes, it’s easy to slide into a more laissez-faire approach when you’re in a relationship, but if you do that then it won’t be long before you’re searching up and down to retrieve the burning spark that once existed.
Look, you don’t need to be red carpet ready at all times, but you really should make an effort to try to maintain your appearance and look good for your guy. You put your best face forward during those first few months of dating and there’s no reason for it to stop once things are more established. It will keep the passion and lust alive in your relationship and also, it feels really good to a man when a woman puts in effort to look good for him.
The funny thing I notice is women in relationships (again, myself included), will lounge around the house in sweats and a messy bun and no makeup when they’re home with their guy, but will put on a face-full of makeup and get decked out when going out, to impress strangers? The whole thing is so backwards. A guy friend once lamented to me that his girlfriend had