By Good Men Project for DivorcedMoms.com
There are a lot of articles that attempt to explain how men can be better lovers, better husbands, or better boyfriends. And of course, there is no shortage of advice online telling men what it is that women really want. My web search for this last topic returned nearly 1 billion results in less than half a second.
Becoming a better man is a noble goal, but marriages and relationships involve more than one person. If we are truly invested in creating and fostering healthy relationships, we need to help men better recognize how a stable and mature partner acts. But searches for articles on "how to tell if your partner is mature," "signs your spouse is emotionally healthy," and "indications your relationship is stable" all return far fewer hits.
Here are some important characteristics of healthy partners to help other men better recognize if their partner acts in mature, stable, and emotionally healthy ways.
1. He listens more than he speaks.
An emotionally mature person recognizes that listening can be far more important than making sure that we are heard. In a world of constant information, chatter, and distraction, a partner who can tune out the noise and really pay attention is not something we should take for granted. In addition, finding someone who can make space for someone else's feelings to matter is a very important thing to look for in a partner.
2. She asks for the things she wants, instead of getting upset when you don't provide the things she needs.
There's an old saying, we can't know what we can't know. Fairytale ideals of romantic love ignore this truth. Instead, they presume that true love creates some kind of magical spiritual bond where we instinctively "know" our partners' wishes, dreams, and desires. They also presume that we will always gladly give those things without hesitation, no matter the imposition of inconvenience, it may place on us. That is an unrealistic and oftentimes dangerous presumption to hold.
3. He talks about the things he fears without shaming or blaming himself or others, including you.
At the root of many fights are unspoken fears and doubts eating away at our trust for one another. It can be hard to openly discuss our fears with our partners, but when we make it a priority to make that a normal part of our relationships, it only helps to build better communication -- which itself builds more trust and intimacy over time.
4. She enjoys the silent calm of coexisting in the same space.
Few things feel better in this world than a warm, quiet snuggle. And sometimes just knowing you share space on this planet with your loved ones can be a source of great comfort. When we can quietly coexist with our partners and enjoy their presence without needing to ask for anything in return, we are enjoying one of the most beautiful gifts of being in love.
5. They accept present circumstances without blaming and work to find ways to make things better.
Sometimes things break. Sometimes an unforeseen event occurs and causes damage. Life is messy, unpredictable, and will involve struggle and frustration at times. It's important to be able to acknowledge this without allowing fear or frustration to take over and dominate our thoughts and emotions. Assigning blame when things go wrong is a natural impulse -- we want to understand why something bad happened and determine who, if anyone, should be held accountable. But emotionally mature people find ways to solve problems without resorting to shaming and blaming others.
By learning what emotionally mature behavior is, we empower ourselves with important, and often overlooked, information. These five points are just part of the story, and even if our partners embody these behaviors, that's no guarantee we will have a happy marriage or relationship. However these concepts can help us better judge the overall health of our relationships, and perhaps can help us focus on specific challenges we may need to address openly with our partners. Lastly, we should also proactively use these concepts as a mirror and ask if we're living up to these ideas as well.
*Author's note: I alternate use of gendered and gender neutral pronouns to reflect the full diversity of emotional partnerships. Each point applies equally across all gender identities and is not intended to exclude non-binary folks; my choice of pronoun is not intended to reinforce toxic and disrespectful stereotypes.