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There’s no playbook for handling the highs and lows of relationships, but there are some tools to help you navigate these extremes and maybe even be a better partner while you’re at it. Here, Yoga Journal’s June cover model Chrissy Carter shares her 5 best tips for being your best you in your relationship.
5 Ways to Be a Better Partner
1. See and Accept Your Partner for Who They Really Are
“I think the single most valuable lesson I’ve learned from being in a relationship is the importance of seeing and accepting your partner for who they are,” Carter says. “So often, consciously or unconsciously, we see our partners for who we want them to be. This discord between projection and reality obstructs clear, honest communication and can perpetuate the beliefs that contribute to our suffering.”
2. Appreciate Your Partner
“I think sincerity of heart, honesty, and a great sense of humor are so important,” Carter shares. “I appreciate my partner for always being a mirror so I can see (whether I like it or not) my own patterns and take action towards positive change.”
3. Be Willing to ‘Change’ Your Story
“I believe we choose our partners based on our relationship with ourselves,” Carter says. “Our partners reflect our self-worth and validate our story. In my experience, my partner and I bring out the worst in each other when we look to the other for evidence of our own limited story. That’s when we repeat the same unproductive patterns that keep us trapped in poor communication and subsequent reactions. We bring out the best in each other when we challenge ourselves to change the story—when we use all of the ways in which we trigger each other’s story to actually break free from it.”
4. Give Yourself Time and Space to Forgive
“Time, space, and perspective are, for me, the keys to forgiveness,” Carter reveals. “It’s a lot to ask of ourselves to forgive in the moment, especially if it inhibits us from feeling valid emotions such as frustration, anger, betrayal, or sadness. I think it’s important to give yourself the space to feel what you feel; only then can you process those feelings. With time, new layers of meaning will emerge and you will relate to the situation from a different perspective. Then I think you can contemplate forgiveness. All of this said, I think it can be helpful to keep an open mind, because the intention behind someone’s actions may not be what we had assumed in the moment.”
5. Focus on Yourself (and Do Your Own Work)
“My ability to be a loving, supportive partner depends so much on my dedication to my own work,” Carter says. “There’s a great passage in the Bhagavad Gita that tells us it’s better to do our own work poorly than someone else’s perfectly. This, to me, captures the essence of relationships. It’s so tempting to do our partner’s work, but in doing so we not only deprive them of the opportunity to do it for themselves, we also conveniently avoid our own stuff. As hard as it is, when I focus on myself—my work, my needs, my story—it enables me to contribute to my relationship in a much clearer, more honest way.”