As January comes to a close, the month that we collectively set goals, February is upon us and Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. This Hallmark holiday brings both joy and angst for couples. Imagine what your relationship could look like if you devoted the 28 days in February to becoming a better partner, rather than just focusing on one date night.

Maintaining a successful relationship is not the same for every couple. This time of year, I encourage my clients to pause from their busy lives and take a “relationship inventory”. I ask them what they want or need in their relationship. Do they seek more time with each other? Do they want their partner to be a better listener? Or do they crave more intimacy? In my coaching practice I have found four major skills that help ensure the continued health of a relationship:

  • Meeting your partner in his or her world
  • Celebrating and accepting differences
  • Not projecting your values onto your partner
  • Making your partner’s needs your own

This month I am going to focus on meeting your partner in his/her world. It’s important to realize that each of us comes to the relationship as a unique individual who sees the world through our own lens. This filter involves our beliefs, attitudes, and judgments. Combine this with differences in gender, personality, and personal preferences, and you have a lot to consider. He might be a morning person, while she is a night owl. Maybe she likes to have a schedule and he likes to be spontaneous. Some of these differences originally attracted us to our partner. However, over time they can cause conflict.

A simple precept you can use to strengthen your relationship, is to develop a greater awareness of who your partner is and isn’t, and how they navigate their world. You need to ask yourself what draws them closer, and what pushes them away from you. When you bring this mindfulness and understanding into your experience, it allows you to relate to your partner in a more deliberate and conscious way that can greatly enhance your relationship.

Take Action

This month, take time to make your most important relationship a priority. Instead of spending all your time thinking about gifts or where to go for dinner, take time to enter your partner’s world. Try this exercise with your special person.

  • Take out a sheet of paper and make a list of things that you like and don’t like about each other. Perhaps you could even do this over a meal the week before Valentine’s Day.
  • Some of the things on your list may seem obvious, but talk through them and hear what your partner needs in order to be happier in the relationship.
  • Make it a goal to understand their point of view. Put yourself in their place, rather than judging them based on what you need or want.
  • Example – perhaps an ideal weekend for her is reading a book while sitting on the couch, curled up with a blanket.  For him, the ideal weekend is a busy party with friends watching the big game. (A perfect example for some of you surrounding the Super Bowl.)
  • In this example, she would go to the Super Bowl party not because she suddenly enjoys it, but because she knows that it is important to him.
  • Example – She likes to frequently dine at fancy restaurants, while he thinks this type of spending is wasteful and this difference often leads to fights over money.
  • Here, he would pick a fine dining restaurant and surprise her with a romantic evening.

Learning to meet your partner in his or her world is another TOOL for your “relationship toolbox”. Try it out this month and see what happens!