I've been seeing a lot of posts, mostly from religious-based bloggers about how to be a good wife. While I think these suggestions are excellent and you can never go wrong being a supportive spouse, I find the lack of "How to be a Good Husband" posts disturbing. It smacks of sexism to me. Admittedly, I'm a pretty radical feminist, and my opinions are colored by my own religious experiences, which were most definitely sexist and marginalizing toward women. So this kind of stuff tends to stick in my craw a little. Still, I think a little balance is required here. So the following is a list of ways to be a supportive PARTNER (not all committed relationships are marriages). These are aimed at both genders.
1. Be honest. If something is bothering you, speak up. Don't assign blame, but approach the problem with solving it in mind. "I'm having trouble understanding why you have been less affectionate lately. I have some suggestions for ways to help us both get what we need."
2. Don't expect more of your partner than you expect of yourself. It's not his job to provide ALL the romance. It's not her job to give ALL the back rubs. Give as much as you get. If you want more, give more and then ask for what you need.
3. Don't expect LESS of your partner than you expect of yourself. If they're abusive, mean, hurtful or irresponsible that is not your fault and it is not your job to pick up their slack or absorb their abuse. Seek professional help for these problems or leave, because it's not healthy for anyone to be in an abusive relationship.
4. Offer praise regularly. Everyone needs a shot in the arm sometimes. Some people need to be complimented on their looks, some need to be told they're awesome parents, some need appreciation showed for their hard work. Find out what makes your partner glow inside and try to keep them glowing.
5. Offer only constructive criticism. "This tastes terrible!" is not constructive. It's not even nice. "Next time it could use a little more salt," is much better. If you don't know what could make the problem better, see #1... go in with finding a solution in mind. "I don't know what made it taste badly to me, show me the recipe and maybe I can critique it for you."
6. Find common ground. Everybody is different. You won't share all the same interests, you won't like all the same music, you won't enjoy all the same shows. But find something that you both enjoy and do it together regularly. If you can't think of anything you both like, try something new!
7. Put your focus forward. Its nice to reflect on all the fun you had when you were first in love, but that time is past. Now is the time to create new memories, not try to live in the old ones. There is so much to be gained from living in the present. The truth is you may never feel like teenagers in love again, and that's okay. Because now you get to feel like 20,30,40,50,60 somethings in love. Create happiness for today instead of trying to REcreate happiness from yesterday.
Bottom line, just try to be a decent person to live with. Male or female, in a relationship with a man or a woman, married or otherwise.
What makes me qualified to offer this advice? A decade-long relationship with a single person with nary a breakup. And that relationship began when I was 15. And I've read a bunch of relationship books. And I've had some tough times and huge disagreements in my marriage. And I've changed a lot since we got together. So yeah. Not a relationship counselor, but I've got some experience under my belt.