BE A MAN OF YOUR WORDA successful and strong relationship is one that is built on trust and dependability. If you tell a woman that you are going to do something, she will expect you to keep that commitment. Whether it's a date you've made for dinner, a promise to water her plants while she's on vacation, or a resolution to give up smoking, keeping a pledge is crucial in developing and nurturing a solid foundation for the future. Even if it is something that seems insignificant to you in the big scheme of things (i.e., returning a library book for her on your way home from work), a succession of forgetful moments will diminish her faith in you. Accordingly, if every time you promise to do something triggers a reaction on her part to have a Plan B just in case, it is only a matter of time before she starts seeking out a new companion with a better track record for reliability. Never make a promise unless it is one that you know you can keep.
SHOW HER RESPECT If you want to keep a special woman in your life, you need to not only let her know that you put her on a pedestal but that you are willing to defend her honor to be there. This means that you don't engage in gossip or divulge confidences, that you don't criticize or belittle her, and that your love life isn't an open book to anyone who's nosey. If up until now your priority has been to spend all your free hours with your football buddies, you may need to start rethinking your agenda. A woman who always takes second, third or last place to other relationships in your life isn't going to stay in the picture for very long. Showing respect also means fidelity to the relationship if you've both made a commitment to monogamy. If you can't stay faithful, you owe her the respect of freeing her to meet someone who will appreciate and honor the treasure that she is.
LEAVE YOUR BAGGAGE AT THE DOOR The last thing a woman wants is a whiner who does nothing but bemoan the fact that all of her predecessors--and probably life in general--treated him badly. While it's one thing for her to be initially sympathetic, it's draining to listen to the same sob stories day after day. Keep in mind that the more time you spend dwelling on the past, the less energy you'll have to spend building a new future. This also goes for men who talk incessantly about past relationships that were good. Whether the split came about as the result of death or divorce, women don't like to compete with the Ghosts of Relationships Past.
ACCEPT HER AS SHE ISMaybe your beloved would look better if she lost a couple pounds. Maybe she should update that hairdo and go for something snazzier. Maybe she'd look better on your arm if she wore different clothes. If you find yourself keeping a list of all the things she should be doing, you may be looking for a makeover project instead of a girlfriend or future wife. What you need to ask yourself is whether your barrage of suggestions is really meant to help her or to reinvent her into someone who would better define who you think you are. Women--and men--want to know that they're loved for themselves, not for an idealistic image that may be difficult to obtain. There's a right way and a wrong way to recommend improvement. To imply that you could love her more if she didn't have quite so many flaws is definitely the wrong way.
DON'T BE POSSESSIVE Do you call your girlfriend every hour of the day? Do you demand a thorough accounting of what she’s doing and who she’s seeing whenever she’s not with you? Are you purposely driving a wedge between her and her family and friends so you won’t have to share her? Do you discourage her from doing activities she really loves because you resent that you’re not a part of it? If your behavior fits these descriptions, it’s not love; it’s obsession. In concert with the advice to treat your lady with proper respect, you need to allow her the freedom to have time to spend on herself. Jealousy and possessiveness are unhealthy in any relationship and communicate that you are insecure, clingy, and potentially violent if you’re not the center of attention.
DON'T RUSH ROMANCE If you want a strong love connection, you need to start out with an equally strong “like” connection. It’s easy to rush headlong into a permanent relationship when you’re more excited about the prospect of being half of a couple than in enjoying the journey of discovering the things you have in common. Even if you’re sure that this is truly love at first sight and you don’t want to waste any time getting her in bed or off to the altar, a partnership that is meant to last will have a better chance if the man and woman invest in the value of friendship with one another. Consider the qualities and traits you admire in the people to whom you are close and apply those same tests in picking the person with whom you want to spend the rest of your life.
PAY ATTENTION Being a good partner means being a conscientious listener. It means not talking about yourself so much that she can never get a word in edgewise. It means that when she hints she’d really like a certain sweater for her birthday you don’t go out and buy her a CD of your favorite R&B singer instead. It also means that you’re sensitive to her moods, that you take an interest in projects she’s doing at work or problems she’s currently having with her siblings, and that you actually notice (and take action) if you see that one of her tires is low or that she comments on a new restaurant she’d like to try. Pay attention to the calendar, too. Remembering birthdays, anniversaries and special occasions demonstrates that she’s important enough to you that you know how to plan ahead.
TRY NEW THINGS Show an open mind when it comes to trying out new foods, activities, or ideas. While the two of you don’t have to share the same passion for every single thing that comes along, she’s far more likely to accompany you to a monster truck rally someday if you’ve accompanied her to a performance of the ballet. The fact that you show the willingness and curiosity to see what something is about instead of flatly dismissing it as stupid will accrue huge points in the sensitivity department. Why? Men and women tend to interpret the rejection of an idea as a rejection of them personally, a condition that will only fester with the passage of time. It should also be understood between the two of you that if the new whatever isn’t a good fit, it won’t continue to linger as a bone of contention. Trying it once—and respecting the outcome— is the most that either of you can ask.
SHARE THE WORK In today’s society, there is no such thing as “a woman’s job” or “a man’s job.” The fact that both parties put in a full day of work shouldn’t mean that it’s always the female’s job to cook the meals, set the table, wash the dishes and do the laundry. You may not be a gourmet chef but that shouldn’t stop you from picking up and dishing out Chinese food. Your gender also shouldn’t inhibit you from running the vacuum cleaner, walking the dog, or helping put postage stamps on the wedding invitations.
CELEBRATE THE ORDINARY Too many couples make the mistake of only pulling out all the stops for each other on vacations and special holidays. The rest of the time, they’re taking each other for granted. While it’s easy to say, “I love you” against an exotic backdrop or go overboard buying presents on Valentine’s Day, a happy relationship is one that celebrates itself every day of the year. Buy her a card “just because.” Schedule date nights…and keep them! Give her a foot rub when she’s had a rough day. Bring her lunch in bed and a favorite DVD when she’s under the weather. Let her know on a regular basis that she’s not only the love of your life but also the best friend you could ever have. Most of all, remember that “happily ever after” isn’t a destination but a journey to be taken hand in hand and heart to heart.