Committing to sharing your life with someone else can simultaneously be one of the most amazing and intricate human milestones. Every relationship is a different blend of two distinct personalities, circumstances, mental landscapes and sets of emotional baggage, thus the qualities of a good girlfriend will vary. Yet, the hallmarks of a good relationship, honesty, loyalty, communication, affection and responsiveness, among many others, remain timelessly and universally relevant. An ideal committed, long-term romance is, one of life’s closest relationships, meaning that as partners become more and more acquainted, they will come to learn a great deal about each other. They will not only learn all of each other’s positive traits, but all of each other’s negative traits as well. The keys to a successful relationship are to cherish and vocalize the great parts of your partner and to enjoy your time together, while also finding calm, rational ways to navigate through the hurdles of your relationship and individual flaws.
She is Honest About Her Feelings
One of the hallmarks of a good relationship is transparency. Whether she is incredibly happy with, or livid with you, she needs to tell you. Even if the two of you have been together for years, you cannot read her mind, so she needs to tell you what she’s thinking. Your girlfriend is, ideally, one of your closest friends, so she shouldn’t be shy about telling you the ways in which you make her joyful and proud, and conversely, the things you have said or done that hurt her.
She Tells You Her Positive Thoughts About You
She doesn’t assume that choosing to be with them all the time, and expressing positive body or facial language, convey all the positive thoughts she has about you. If she doesn’t say them explicitly, you might be unclear on exactly how she feels. She shouldn’t be shy about telling you how impressed she is at how hard you work, what a supportive member of your family you are, or your dedication to a passion project.
She is Not Afraid to Say When Something is Bothering Her
While it’s important for your girlfriend to tell you when she’s happy with or proud of you, it’s equally important for her to maintain an open dialogue about any problems that arise. Even small disputes can cause tension in a relationship, yet this tension can, many times, be easily resolved, simply by talking about it. Glossing over tensions, and pretending they’re not there can cause honest misunderstandings to be perceived as purposeful attacks and thus, lead to resentment.
Communication is a Virtue
Not only is it paramount for her to tell you her feelings, but the way in which she expresses them also requires thoughtful consideration. If she finds yourself bothered by something you have done, or one of your habits, a good girlfriend would approach you calmly and rationally about it, keeping in mind that the goal of the discussion is to find a solution, not to prove that he’s right.
She Communicates Successfully
For example, let’s say a woman and her boyfriend live together and both have full-time jobs, yet somehow, the responsibility of cooking dinner falls to the woman every night. Sometimes she is very tired after work and would prefer not to cook, yet her boyfriend never offers to. His girlfriend, while keeping an even tone should simply tell him the problem, and how she believes it should be fixed—cooking duties should be shared. Perhaps, the man was brought up in a home with very stereotypical gender roles and he never saw his father cook, only his mother, night after night. Thus, it never even occurred to him to cook. Maybe, all it took for him to contribute more to kitchen duties was to be asked in a rational, non-explosive way. Of course, it doesn’t always turn out this way, but, sometimes, bothersome things you or your girlfriend do are only a misunderstanding.
She Communicates Well During a Stark Disagreement
There are other times in which you and your girlfriend simply will not agree. This does not mean you’re an ill-suited couple; every couple has issues which they find difficult to reconcile. In these situations, you’ll find that if your relationship is important enough to her, and the disagreement does not affect her affection for you, a good girlfriend will let her positive feelings towards you outweigh the few clashes. She’ll recognize that you come from different families and backgrounds, were taught different ideas growing up and that no relationship is fairy-tale perfect all the time. The ideal way to deal with such a situation is to express that she respects your point of view, even though she doesn’t agree with it and if you’re a good partner, you’ll extend the same courtesy to her. However, if you and your girlfriend’s opinions clash so heavily that you’re constantly arguing and the relationship is causing you more stress than happiness, it may be time to assess whether the relationship is worth salvaging.
She Knows How to Tailor Your Relationship to its Circumstances
Every relationship is different, and thus has its own, unique needs and accommodations. For example, the actions of a good partner will differ substantially in a long-distance relationship as opposed to a conventional, close-distance relationship. A relationship in which one partner is an introvert and needs time alone to decompress and reflect, and the other is an extreme extrovert who is energized by constant connection with others, will have different needs than one in which both partners are introverts or extroverts. A good girlfriend listens to you and is in tune with your needs, while also listening to herself and being in tune with her own needs, while simultaneously tailoring these needs to the circumstances surrounding your relationship.
Long-Distance Relationships Have Their Own Set of Ideal Partner Qualities
While communication is important in any relationship, it takes on a new set of skills in an LDR. A caring girlfriend gets to know your schedule so she can call, or video chat at convenient times and, even, plan regular phone or video chat dates if helpful. Since you are around less frequently to experience life with firsthand, it becomes much more important for her to share all the elements of her life with you verbally or in written forms such as text or e-mail. Additionally, it’s vital for her to ask you questions about your life and listen attentively to your anecdotes, opinions and everything else you decide to share with her.
She Finds Creative Ways to Bond While You’re Apart
Sure, you’re in different cities, states or even countries, but that doesn’t mean that all you can do together is recount your separate lives to each other over the phone. She finds ways to engage in your interests together remotely such as starting a two-person cross-continental book or film club. Or taking pictures every time either of you go somewhere interesting and uploads them to a shared Google Drive folder. You two could even take the old-fashioned approach and write each other letters and tuck in a drawing, pressed flower or gift every once in a while as a surprise.
Priorities of a Successful Close-Distance Relationship
If you and your partner live together or in the same city, she takes care to spend time with you engaging in novel activities that will strengthen the relationship. Partners in close distance relationships benefit from the luxury of being able to see each other quite often. Thus, she doesn’t let the two of you fall into a comfortable (but boring) routine of Netflix and take-out. She keeps things exciting by going to shows with you, trying out new restaurants, cafés and bars, taking trips to new places and engaging in any activities the two of you share interest in. Doing new things together will allow both of you to see sides of each other you never have before, thus helping the two of you to connect on a deeper level and grow closer.[i]
She Allows Herself the Time and Space to Grow as an Individual
While it can be tempting for her to spend all your free time with you while you live in close proximity, the most healthy relationships are the ones in which couples intersperse their quality time together with quality time for themselves. No matter how much she loves you, she likely has her own goals, hobbies and friends that she wants to spend time on independently, and chances are, so do you. It sounds counterintuitive, but one of the qualities of a good girlfriend is one who knows to spend some time away from you, expanding her own self-growth and letting you do the same.
She Practices Self-Awareness
Nobody is perfect, everyone has issues of one sort or another, whether they’re smaller flaws like being messy, or more significant struggles such as alcoholism or anger management. The key is being aware of and communicative about these pitfalls with you. If you and your girlfriend are in a committed relationship, you are one of the closest people to her in her life, thus, you come to know every part of her, good and bad. Her actions, habits, physical and mental health come to affect not only her, but you as well since your lives are so closely intertwined and you care about her.
She Communicates with You About Problems Affecting Her and the Relationship
She’s honest, both with herself and with you. You agreed to be in a relationship with her, most likely knowing that it would include being supportive. Partners help each other through problems and work on themselves, which in turn makes the relationship better. A lack of self-awareness and the willingness to be open with you about her flaws can be a huge roadblock in the relationship, and in the worst-case scenario, even lead to its end. If she’s not willing to be truthful with herself about who she is, for better and for worse, then she can’t even begin to work on problems she’s brought to the relationship that are causing a rift between the two of you.
She is Willing to Work on Herself Both For Her Own Good and that of the Relationship
Self-awareness is the first step of working on herself both to make her own life better and to iron out any roadblocks her problem or bothersome trait is causing in your relationship. It’s a very important step, but it is not beneficial on its own, it needs to be coupled with a concerted effort to work on the problem in order to better both herself and the relationship. Sometimes in relationships, a partner is honest about themselves– for example, perhaps a woman is an alcoholic and openly shares this part of herself with her boyfriend. But then she just continues to drink heavily, putting her boyfriend in a de facto caregiver position when she is too drunk to get herself home safely or needs to be physically stopped from drinking herself into alcohol poisoning. This sort of situation, even though the troubled girlfriend was honest, is unfair and unacceptable to her boyfriend.
She Takes Constructive Criticism for What it is
If she’s not self-aware about a problem or bothersome trait she has, or is self-aware and just isn’t doing anything about it, she should be receptive to your constructive criticism and advice. We all need a little help from time to time, and recognizing and fixing our own flaws is no easy feat. So if you point out something she does that bothers you, or a larger problem in her life related to her mental or physical health or otherwise, she shouldn’t get defensive and turn the discussion into an argument. Instead, she should see your criticism for what it is; a manifestation of your genuine concern for her, and an effort to help both her and the relationship. If she’s genuinely interested in bettering herself and the relationship, she will listen to your opinion and formulate a plan with you on how to tackle the problem.
She Finds Ways to Cope with Problems
Every relationship is going to have rough patches, but if your partner is important enough to you, and you’re willing to put in the effort, you’ll find that there’s always a way to deal with the issues that inevitably arise. Recognize that everyone is a work in progress. You can’t expect anyone to be perfect, but you and your partner should hold each other to the expectation that you’re going to work on yourselves and try to be better regarding issues that affect yourselves, the relationship or both.
She Creates Plans to Deal with Specific Bothersome Habits
If she knows she has a certain habit that has annoyed exes or friends in the past, she tells you about it openly and finds a way to cope with it if it annoys you. For example, let’s say she has a habit of questioning people when they say, “I’m fine.” She tends to ask, “Are you really fine?” and then further prod them by asking, “What are you thinking?” over and over again. A good girlfriend will tell you to let her know if she’s doing this to you without realizing it, if it gets on your nerves. She will also let you know the best way to quell her anxieties during the time this habit of hers manifests. Maybe she continually asks you what you’re thinking because she’s worried it’s something bad. Thus, a good way to cope with this habit would be for you to honestly tell her what you’re thinking and let her know that you’re fine or not fine and then go from there. A good girlfriend knows that the best way to deal with bothersome habits and larger issues is to face them directly and rationally, with the philosophy that for a relationship to work, not only do the positive parts of the two of you have to align, but she must have strategies for dealing with the negative parts as well.
As a devoted, committed girlfriend, she stands by your side and makes it clear, through her actions and words, that (unless you’re in an explicitly agreed upon polyamorous relationship) you’re the only one she’s romantic and sexual with. Of course, it’s only natural for one to be attracted to people other than their partner, and she should never be made to feel as though she’s your property or that she can’t express any sort of interest in anyone but you. She should feel free to talk to new people while she’s out with or without you, she should just be cognizant of how she would feel if she were in your shoes in certain situations. If she truly loves you and wants to stay with you, she should not flirt with or conduct herself in any romantic or sexual way with others. She should hold herself to the same expectations of consideration and sensitivity she holds you to.
One of the most important elements of any romantic relationship is providing your partner with help and support. Work on developing your sense of what researchers call “empathetic accuracy,” meaning the skill of correctly predicting the type of support your partner needs. There are three different types of support: informational, which is defined as providing information to help you understand your situation; instrumental which occurs when you help your partner complete physical a task or achieve a goal; and emotional which is the provision of warmth, comfort and understanding to your partner when they are stressed or upset.[ii]
She Pays Close Attention to You and Picks up on Your Need for Emotional Support
Researchers have found that people fall short in giving their partners the amount of support they desire in all three categories. But the discrepancy between desired and given support is most substantial in the emotional category. This can be attributed to various causes. Many people find it difficult to ask for help in romantic relationships because they don’t want to be seen as dependent or unable to take care of their own affairs. A significant portion of men are afraid that seeking support, especially in the emotional realm, is against the traditional male norm and would make their partner perceive them as weak. Thus, if she thinks you may need support and simply aren’t asking for it, she should offer it in an open-ended manner, allowing you to accept or decline with equal ease. A good girlfriend will simply ask if you need help, but will not force it on you. Conversely, partners don’t always pick up on each other’s support-seeking behaviors, and therefore do not help each other. A caring girlfriend will try to be in tune with you, and recognize when you’re asking for help so that you do not have to ask for it repeatedly or go without support.[iii]
Hold Yourself and Your Partner to Your Own Unique Expectations
While there are a set of universally recognized characteristics of a good girlfriend, every couple is different and everyone has their own unique idea of preferable partner qualities. Maybe you love when your girlfriend challenges you and you both love debating controversial subjects. Maybe you look for artistic passion and dedication to creative work in a girlfriend. Furthermore, some people need more compassion and emotional support than others, while some prefer to be more independent. The most important element of being a good girlfriend is putting in the effort to get to know you very well, paying attention to your needs and embodying the qualities which feel natural to her and right for your relationship.
[i] Mattingly, B., Lewandowski, G. Broadening Horizons: Self-Expansion in Relational and Non-Relational Contexts (2014). Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 8, 30-40.
[ii] Ickes, W. (1993). Empathic accuracy. Journal of Personality, 61(4), 587–610.
[iii] Rizzo, D., Magen, Eran. Ideal Support in Romantic Relationships: Differences in Empathetic Accuracy (2011). Counseling and Psychological Services, University of Pennsylvania, 1-3.
Christine Lavosky – Website/CV
Christine Lavosky is a graduate from Emerson College who uses her minor in Psychology to develop complex, realistic characters for her novel in progress as well as her creative non-fiction. She is particularly interested in the psychological phenomena that come into play in romantic relationships and trauma and uses empirical studies and research on these topics to inform her fiction.