own YOUR 20s: Love BETTER
Work toward that happy ending.
EVEN IF your dating profile boasts that you’re a “damn good plus- one,” there have def been times when you’ve questioned your relationship savvy (“Am I cut out for this?!”), just like everyone else who’s ever dated. But why wonder when you can easily work on being a kick- butt partner while you’re single? Start now by cultivating these key skills from psychology researcher Robert Epstein, PHD, who’s examined the relationship successes of more than 25,000 people.
1. Say What you think
The ability to talk about your needs calmly and effectively (and listen to those of your partner) is the best predictor of whether you’ll make a great girlfriend, according to Epstein’s research. If you hesitate to speak up or disagree with others, then it’s worth working on your communication skills. You want to get to a point where “there’s a fluid backand-forth and you feel comfortable bringing up a serious topic,” says clinical psychologist Jill P. Weber, PHD, author of Building Self-esteem5steps.
Try this: Write a script for any convos that may make you lose it, like confronting your friend who flaked or the manager who passed you up for a project. Make sure what you write is calm and nondefensive (“With a boss, you could say, ‘I was hoping I’d be on that. How can I be considered next time?’” suggests Weber). When the time comes, take a deep breath and say what you rehearsed. “Once this is a new norm, you’ll attract people who are also good communicators,” says Weber.
2. Recall the little things
Knowing personal stuff (like your future S.O.’S birthday and Starbucks order) is the secondbest predictor of how successful you’ll be in a relationship, per Epstein’s research. “It was a shock,” says Epstein of the finding. “The numbers show it’s more important than conflict resolution or stress management. And it’s simple.” He’s right—when you remember details about someone, they feel special and loved. For now, practice on your bestie: Next time you chat, pick out certain facts you want to remember and ask her follow-up questions about them. If your pal says she loves Coron, ask about her earliest memories in the sand. Putting a detail into context can help you recall it in the future (“Look, Kelly, flights to Coron are on sale. You can go back to that beach!”).
3. Stick it Out
If you bolt at the first sign of a problem or bail on plans, a relationship will be tricky for you. That’s because commitment is a top trait of people who rule at romance. It’s what helps you get through tough times, says Epstein. Without it, something as slight as not seeing each other for two weekends could tear you apart. But how can you build commitment skills if you’re not with someone? Easy. Set other long-term goals that require your time and attention. Train for a halfmarathon, or keep a little garden on your windowsill. Once you see the rewards that come with following through, you’ll know to do the same with a future mate. “Working on your commitment muscle outside a relationship will make it more natural when you’re in one,” says Weber.
4. Dare to Be Vulnerable
Studies show that opening up to people—and letting your authentic self shine— is clutch for developing a deep bond with others. But let’s say it: Putting yourself out there can be terrifying AF, especially if it means potential rejection (eek!).
To get better at baring it all, get real with those you know and trust. Epstein suggests doing a “secret swap” with a BFF, where you both reveal something intimate. You’ll start to overcome the fear of being exposed and feel closer to your friend as a result. Or request a favor. Ask a neighbor to pick up soup when you’re sick, or have your brother drive you to the airport instead of Ubering. Dropping the perfect, self-sufficient facade will make it easier for you to be vulnerable with a partner, says Weber. It also builds up your tolerance: After a few “I’m sorry, I can’t!” replies, you’ll realize you can handle a shutdown without it ruining a whole relationship.
“this girlfriend gig? it’s a piece of cake!”