It’s Not About Having the Right Partner. It’s About Being the Right Partner.

I stumbled across the above quote (which I’ve been unable to source) a few weeks ago. Since then, the idea has been running through my mind as I realized how often the idea behind the quote comes up in our day-to-day lives, personally, professionally, financially, and otherwise.

Simply put, none of us live in a bubble. We’re constantly interacting with others – our friends, our spouse, our children, our boss, our coworkers, our pharmacist, our doctor – the list goes on and on.

Most of those interactions are one-on-one. Yes, sometimes we are in a group environment, but many of the interactions people have are one-on-one with other individuals. It’s just you and your doctor. It’s just you and your spouse. It’s just you and your boss. It’s just you and your child.

Most of those interactions, if they go well, benefit both of you. If you can communicate clearly with your doctor, (s)he can offer a good treatment plan for you. You get better and your doctor is successful in their career’s mission. If you can communicate a societal standard to your child, then your child will adapt to society better and you’ll have an easier time managing that child’s public behavior. If you can suggest a great alternate plan to your boss, you both succeed. If you can relate good personal finance concepts to your partner, you’ll both end up in a better financial state.

In essence, these interactions are pieces of partnerships, particularly if they are with individuals that you’ll interact with again and again. A partnership is just that – a series of interactions with someone else. Ideally, most of these interactions are beneficial for both of you, and the overall pattern certainly should be one of benefit for both parties.

The best thing you can do to make sure that any partnership in your life goes well is to simply focus on being the best partner you can be.

Here are just a few pointers on being a good partner in every aspect of your life.

Being a good partner doesn’t mean being a doormat. If you are a doormat, then every partnership you’re involved with is not ending with the best possible outcome. It’s ending with the outcome where the other person gets what they want, but it doesn’t end with you getting anything that you want. That’s never the best outcome for a partnership, especially over a longer period.

Being a good partner does mean being a good communicator. If you want something out of a partnership or an interaction, be up front about it. Make it clear what you want out of this set of interactions and what you think you can both get out of it. At the very least, do this as a thought exercise: what’s the best possible outcome for all involved from this partnership?

Being a good partner doesn’t mean assigning blame. Sometimes things go wrong in partnerships. It’s very easy to just blame your partner for the problems. The doctor didn’t diagnose me correctly. My wife doesn’t listen to me. My boss doesn’t care about any of us. Instead, ask yourself what you can do to improve this situation.

I do this quite a lot, particularly with Sarah. It is very easy for me to blame her for things like the dishes not being done or something. When I step back, though, and ask myself why the dishes haven’t been done, I see that the real reason is that we’ve both been really busy with lots of things. Maybe I’m the one that has more free time to actually do the dishes right now.

Being a good partner does mean figuring out what you can bring to the table. What can you do to make the partnership succeed as a whole? Don’t focus on what your partner needs to do or should do. What can you do?

In the example above with the dishes, I might just do them myself. Alternately, I might take a serious look at my own schedule and see if there’s a way for me to fit in the time to take charge of the dishwashing.

If my wife and I are having money problems, perhaps I can look at what I can change or implement to reduce the impact of our spending issues. Maybe I can go ahead and implement some automatic transfers to a savings account.

Yet another example: if I’m feeling like my boss doesn’t understand my situation and I’m prone to ranting about it, I could just spend some time writing out the details of the situation myself and look for what aspects of a solution to the work problem I can implement myself.

Being a good partner doesn’t mean focusing only on what you get out of things. Every good partnership has outcomes that are beneficial to both sides. The best outcome is almost always the one that generates the most positives for everyone involved, not just yourself. One good way to address a partnership challenge is to simply look at the options you have before you, then look at all of the benefits each choice provides for the partnership as a whole.

What are you doing to be a good partner today? Almost every professional, personal, financial, and social element of your life is inherently tied to the partnerships you have with people around you. Your success hinges on good outcomes from all of these partnerships – or as many as you can possibly generate.

What are you doing right now to be a good partner with your spouse? Your boss? Your kids? Your coworkers?

Trent Hamm

Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.