How To Be A Good Girlfriend — 11 Ways To Be Even Better Than You Already Are

Photo: Josh Resnick / Shutterstock
man looking lovingly at his girlfriend

Healthy, happy relationships seem like they should happen naturally, but learning how to be a good girlfriend requires practice and a little heartfelt effort.

The truth is, many of us lack the most basic skills required for all types of healthy relationships and situations in life. This is especially true today, when electronics have completely changed how we communicate with one another.

While FaceTime, text messages, DMs, and Snaps offer us endless new possibilities for connecting, they can also make life more complicated and increase the chances of misunderstandings and misinterpretations.

The good news is, many of the lessons from the past on how to be a good partner still hold true. That's because healthy relationships are timeless.

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11 Ways To Be A Good (Or Even Better) Girlfriend

1. Listen more, lecture less.

So many people, including myself, at times, are so focused on responding to what another is saying that they are missing the point and feelings involved with whatever is being talked about.

Here are some active listening concepts to keep in mind:

  • Pay attention and give your undivided attention.
  • Show you are listening through your nonverbal behavior and communication.
  • Provide feedback when it is appropriate. Do not give unsolicited advice or opinion.
  • Hold off from making judgments.
  • Respond appropriately and respectfully.
  • Avoid immediately making a situation about yourself or comparing your own experience to his.

All of this advice applies to listening in person as well as online or during FaceTime. Be present, pay attention and try not to multitask.

2. Respect his prior relationships.

Put your feelings aside because there were people in their lives before you and they will continue to be in their lives (assuming these are people close to your partner).

So even if you don’t like some of them or even one, get over it. Be accepting and warm.

Even former romantic relationships need to be respected, no matter how jealous you feel when thinking or talking about them. You should both be able to talk about your exes (within reason, and with respect) and past relationships without shame.

Our past relationships influence who we are and what we feel in a major way, and if we feel like we have to keep those things bottled up, we aren't truly sharing our lives.

So instead of being mad that your boyfriend is friends with his ex on social media or getting jealous or enraged when he brings them up, take a deep breath and understand that when you love someone, you have to make space for their whole past.

3. Support your boyfriend's goals.

There may be times when you feel you’re not entirely on board with your partner’s goals, whether it's because you do not fully understand it or think something else of it.

Regardless of your reasoning, it is important you support your partner and put your personal feelings aside, especially if it is something they have wanted to accomplish for a long time.

Sure, that may mean you see him less while he pursues a graduate degree, beefs up for a fitness competition, or puts in extra time apprenticing at a tattoo shop — or whatever unique thing your guy is into — but that's OK. Supporting him now means time for you to grow as a person and proves to him that you're the real deal.

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4. Show enthusiasm for his interests and passions.

His biggest passions and interests will usually be obvious, but make sure to pay attention to the details too.

Ask questions, do a little research on your own, and learn what you can about what he likes.

That doesn't mean you need to become a carbon copy of your boyfriend, but a good girlfriend at least has a working knowledge of her boyfriend's interests and hobbies and understands exactly why he loves what he loves.

5. Communicate in a respectful manner.

Don’t swear at one another or insult each other. It is not effective and proves to be utterly useless in the end. Talk as equals, even when you disagree. Do not act superior to the other.

Communication is an essential aspect of a relationship and needs to be taken seriously, regardless of whether you've been dating for a few weeks or have been married for years!

Remember that when you're angry, your brain operates differently from when you're calm. You cannot reason, balance, and measure your words, and being empathetic becomes harder.

When you start to feel rage or panic arise during a disagreement, take a deep breath and ask for a short break. Dr. Bill Cloke, a psychotherapist in Los Angeles, says that a 15-minute break is a good place to start. Cloke also suggests that you set a time to come back together, then try again once all your raging hormones have settled down.

Once you return after your break, Cloke suggests that you "Talk about how the incident affected you. Your experience. [Then] ask yourself, how can I see the issues from the other person’s point of view?"

This sets the stage for actually solving a problem and avoiding rehashing the fight at a later date.

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6. Give him space without accompanying resentment.

We all need our space. It’s not rude to need breathing room, and he's not shunning you if he wants to do a few things independently.

Wanting "me time" is not a crime, nor should it be frowned upon in relationships.

It is crucial to have your own time for many reasons to avoid becoming codependent on one another. To be a good girlfriend (or wife, someday), you need to be unique and separate enough from him that you continue to add your own value to the relationship, as well as your perspective on challenges you will inevitably face together — so you can overcome them together.

It's also important to note that everyone has different "alone time" needs, so talk about what would work best for both of you. Your ex may have needed three or four nights alone each week, but your boyfriend may only need one.

Express your needs, too, and you'll be on your way to finding the perfect, healthy balance.

If he asks for space from the entire relationship, do your best to be thoughtful, respectful, and empathetic so that he knows he has a safe, loving partner to come back to when he sorts himself out.

7. Respect his values and beliefs while maintaining your own.

We all differ in some way, whether it be politics or religion, and it’s important to respect each other and understand that you can agree to disagree respectfully.

Don’t judge the other just because you differ in some aspects of life. If you learn to embrace your differences, you can learn a lot.

Dating is not easy and, as technology and other trends keep growing, the more complex it becomes. However, the principles of what constitutes a good girlfriend and a good wife versus an unhealthy and unsupportive one have — and will continue to — remain relatively stable, standing the test of time.

This list will help you be a better partner. We shouldn't expect perfection from ourselves (or our partner), but as long as we strive to be a better people than we were yesterday, we are doing the best we can.

8. Turn your phone off every once in a while.

Yes, work needs you. So does your mom, your BFF, and the dog groomer. But if you want to be a better girlfriend, you need to know when to switch it all off and have a little IRL face time with your man. You also need to talk to him about his phone use, should it feel excessive — without coming off as controlling.

He should reciprocate, of course, but someone has to take the first step and turn their phone off or set it aside, and you can start by setting a good example.

It's not practical to assume you'll never stare at your social media or decline every single call when you're chilling together, but setting aside at least a few hours a day just for "us time" can be a game-changer.

It's also key to know when you should set your phone down and ignore it, like when he's talking to you, eating a meal, or watching a movie together.

In those moments, you shouldn't have to be asked to listen or engage. Proactively decide to put him first.

9. Be a safe place for your boyfriend to open up.

In our society, the woman is expected to be the caretaker and emotional one, whereas the man is supposed to suppress his feelings and emotions, or else he’s a wimp. Sadly, that doesn't work for a lot of people — even in very traditional relationships.

A man can't show his emotions and open himself up to show some vulnerability unless he knows he's safe, loved, and adored by you.

Don't try to solve his problems for him or tell him what he's done wrong when he opens up to you. Use encouraging words of kindness that show empathy, like, "I'm so sorry that happened," or "I can imagine how hard that must have been."

Give him a hug and tell him you love him. Even with guys, who aren't supposed to be touchy-feely (according to society), a big hug goes a long way!

Finally, keep his secrets and emotional experiences private. You may share everything with your best friends or family, but that doesn't mean he's comfortable with that. Being a safe place for a man's emotional expression sometimes means being a vault and keeping his emotions safe and private.

10. Include him in your life.

No, you shouldn't automatically rope him into all of your plans, but you should try to include him whenever it makes sense.

Unless it's a designated girls' night, you can invite him to the movies with you and your friends when it's appropriate. Include him in family dinners, work events, and even discussions about your plans or future.

Talk to him about your dreams, passions, and hobbies so he feels like he really knows who you are when you're with the rest of the people in your world, not just the person you are when you're together.

Ask for his advice whenever you feel it's appropriate. Everyone likes to feel like they're helpful and, as long as you aren't coming across as overly needy, guys love to feel like the superhero who can help his sweetheart out in a time of need.

11. Don't nag him.

One of the fastest ways to be a better girlfriend is to stop nagging your boyfriend.

Nagging is often considered a gendered thing that women do, but anyone can be a nag. If you're harping on or focusing on a problem or something you think he should change, you're nagging, and it's a habit that is not only annoying, it's demeaning.

Lots of people nag their partners about making a change or doing housework, but it's much healthier to let your boyfriend be who he is. His clothes, hair, and fitness habits should be left to him to decide about. Think of it this way: his body, his choice — just as it is for your body.

As far as housework goes, have a conversation about what's important to you, as far as chores and cleanliness, and make a schedule for who does what and when.

If it seems he forgot, give it some time. Don't get on his case right away — and don't just step in and do the chore yourself if it's going to make you resentful or irritated.

Wait until you're calm and cooled down to bring up that you would like him to help with more or follow through with (depending on the issue), and be specific.

Then let it go.

We all have different needs and don't forget how important yours are, too. But relationships require self-work and improvement so we can be our best selves, for our own happiness, as well as our partner's.

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Brittney Lindstrom is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Certified Rehabilitation Counselor who has experience working with diverse and marginalized populations.