5 Things To Ask Yourself To Be A Better Partner

Are there problems in your marriage? Are you always blaming your partner? The problem might be you.

man looking in mirror Sholohova Evgeniya/ New Africa/ Shutterstock

Many people come into couples counseling thinking that their relationship problems are the fault of their partner.

A variation of this is the idea that you both may be equally to blame NOW, but your partner’s issues were the original problem. Over time, they wore on you to the point that now you retaliate/detach/explode.

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If you do not fully believe that you are at least partially responsible for any challenges in your relationship, you are robbing yourself of the opportunity to grow, change, and become a better person and partner.


You are also sabotaging your chances at getting your needs met in your relationship, because the more you blame your partner (either implicitly or explicitly), the less likely they are to want to be close or to change their behavior in positive ways.

In this post, I cover five questions that you can ask yourself in order to introspect deeply about what kind of partner you are, and how you may have unintentionally contributed to your current relationship issues.

Each of them makes you really look inward, and think about what you may have been glossing over for years, your own weaknesses as a partner, and how they may have led you to whatever unfulfilling dynamics currently exist in your relationship.


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Here are 5 questions to ask yourself to be a better partner:

1. What did your upbringing teach you about marriage? 

If you say, “Mom and Dad were fine, they were happy, everything was good,” this is a cop-out. All marriages have certain assumptions and norms. For example, your mother and father may have been happy because they both agreed that she should do all the housework and childcare, and he should earn the money.

In your own marriage, however, you and your husband may not align on these viewpoints, which would mean that something that worked for your parents isn’t working for you.


If your parents’ marriage was unhappy, of course, it means that you learned, at least to some extent, that marriage can be bad, and you may feel trapped in a bad marriage now because you subconsciously assume that’s the way that it has to go.

No matter what your situation is, you can benefit from thinking up at least 5–10 things that you learned from watching your parents’ relationship, and how those relate to your current marital issues.

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2. Why aren’t you doing the things you think would make your relationship better? 

Most people know a few things, or even just one, that would make their partner happier, but they push it to the back of their minds or give themselves an excuse why they don’t do it. An example of this is men that won’t act romantic, even though their wives ask them to because their wives “should” know how they feel and they “don’t believe in Hallmark holidays.”


Or women who will not initiate sex with their husbands because they “just don’t think of it,” despite their husbands repeatedly saying this is something important to them. In the first example, perhaps a husband, upon introspection, would realize that he feels very uncomfortable around romance because he never saw it growing up.

And a woman in the latter example would recognize that she doesn’t initiate sex because she is unhappy with how her body looks after kids. Realizing that there are internal reasons that you aren’t meeting certain of your partner’s needs can be transformative for your relationship. Only something that is recognized and clearly expressed can be worked through.

3. Are you pretending to have forgiven or worked through a grievance that is still an active source of pain for you? 

Here, I discuss empathic ruptures. If, in your heart, you continue to be very upset about a time when your partner wasn’t there for you, but you are keeping this feeling secret and pretending that everything is okay, then it is no wonder that your relationship is under strain.

There are ways to express your hurt to your partner that make it more likely that they will hear you and respond in a positive way, as I discuss here. If you continue to nurse sadness or anger internally, you will progressively become more angry and detached from your partner, and your relationship will deteriorate.


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4. What is “the elephant in the room” when you think about your relationship? 

Often, people have key issues with their relationship or partner, but they are scared to discuss it, or even to think about it clearly in their own minds. Examples are people who feel they have never been in love with their partner, they have no chemistry, or they are ashamed of their partner.

Pushing large fears or dissatisfactions out of your mind does nothing to truly address them. Sometimes, issues like this are dealbreakers, and sometimes they can be worked through. Either way, though, you deserve better than to be vaguely anxious and unfulfilled in your relationship due to not addressing major issues.

5. Can you picture being with your partner in 5, 10, or 20 years?

Sometimes, people don’t actively work on their relationships because they know that they don’t really want to stay in the long term. If this is how you feel deep down, then it is likely that only fear is keeping you in your relationship currently.


If you are just biding your time until you leave your spouse, both you and they may deserve a more authentic relationship than the one you’re currently in.

If this post resonated with you, share it with your partner. It can be a springboard for a discussion about how you each may have contributed to your relationship issues in different ways, which can then lead to a conversation about how to work things out.

If such a discussion seems impossible, couples counseling can help you and your partner be able to talk about these issues in a safe and calm space. 

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Dr. Samantha Rodman Whiten, aka Dr. Psych Mom, is a clinical psychologist in private practice and the founder of DrPsychMom. She works with adults and couples in her group practice Best Life Behavioral Health.