1. Find ways for them to spend more time with their friends – especially their single friends.
Look, you’re in a relationship 365 days of the year, and everything is booked up anyway on the Valentine’s Day weekend. Why not suggest they do something cool with their friends. They could watch a Spike Lee film and leave the romantic night out for a time when you can actually eat a meal without being rushed. Practical, and you get major brownie points from the people whose approval will make or break your relationship.
2. Go volunteer at a charity that’s important to them.
Yes, even if you personally don’t understand the point. Obviously, don’t go doing work you’re not equipped to do or give your time to a super-dodgy organization, but you can do research before you commit any time. And no – you don’t get to fob this one off with a donation. Drag yourself to that soup kitchen, pack parcels at the food bank, run a half marathon to get your stingy aunts to support transgender people, whatever – but show that person you pay attention to what matters to them and you are willing to set aside whatever to support it and them.
3. Educate yourself on matters that are important to them.
Hint: If they bristle every time you say, “I don’t hate gay people, I just don’t see the point in flaunting it,” you shouldn’t expect them to turn your date into a Queer 101 class. I know you think asking questions is a way to feel closer to them, but they’re not always appropriate or welcome. They’ll talk to you about things that matter when they are comfortable and ready. In the meantime, fire up Google, stay away from the comments section and read up quietly so that you don’t put your foot in your mouth.
4. You know those annoying, gross, sometimes completely regular chores that they put off forever?
Pick one, and do it.
Yes—they’re an adult capable of adulting, but if there is something you like doing and they don’t, maybe offer to handle it? Cook a meal. Do the ironing. Make sure their tires have enough air. Wash the car. Scrub that sink. It’s not romantic, but it saves them the trouble for doing that in a while, and if they’ve got a particularly bad week, that kind of stuff will do wonders for their mental health.
5. Go to appointments together.
Nobody likes going to the dentist. Anyone who says the opposite is lying. The same goes for doctor’s check-ups, MOT, car servicing, the IRS, and the DMV. Will it be horrifically boring? Probably. But maybe you can entertain each other, and let’s face it – your partner might need some serious moral support.
6. Take them to visit their family.
Depending on how your partner’s relationship with their family is, the visit can range from pleasant, to trying, to “dumpster fire, how are those people even related.” No need for you to fix their relationships, serving as a getaway driver and nonjudgemental presence is plenty.
7. Give them some space.
Counter-intuitive? Don’t be too hasty. If your partner is an introvert, has had a rough time recently, or just needs to recharge their batteries, having some me-time is crucial. Especially relevant if they work in the service industry. Bartending, waiting tables, taking calls, front-desking, retail etc… Seriously, have you got any idea how hard dealing with people is sometimes? If they look like they’re burning out, a night in with some pizza and Netflix is going to be far more welcome than having to put on a human-friendly face and going out again.
8. Ask them what they want.
No, really. The only “catch” here is that you need to follow through if they say they want something extra specific. Yes, even if that something is totally unromantic, like “fixing my bike like you promised you would last year.”
9. Make nice with their pet.
I know Mr. Sassy Kerfuffle III hated you on sight and there is no way you can officially make peace with them, but you can make a commitment to not complain to your SO or let the pet’s provocations move you. Any animal is going to love their human first, and anyone else will have to work hard to win that trust. Tell yourself that you haven’t earned their respect yet, instead of thinking you are entitled to it, and life is going to get a lot easier for all of you.
10. Work out something with their roommate.
Roommates aren’t always easy to deal with, and they can sometimes be made to feel like an awkward third wheel in their own home. If your SO has had to broker peace between you two for some time, maybe now is a good moment to conduct your own negotiations and work out some sort of compromise with their roommate. I know – nobody likes having the, “I know there have been others, but I’m here to stay, so let’s figure out how we can stand each other in the future” conversation, but your SO will have the benefit of a tension-free home and their roommate will know when to book a trip to Alaska to see the Northern Lights.
As with all romantic advice, it goes without saying that all of this is only nice if it’s welcome. If your partner doesn’t want you at dentist appointments or going over their head to talk to their roommate, don’t do it. The point of all of this is simple: Show that you listen and that you can follow through. Don’t make people uncomfortable. And don’t complain about having done a gross chore – it’s a loving gesture, not a points card.