Dear 100 Hour Board,
So I just started dating someone and I want to be the best boyfriend possible. Any tips for being a good boyfriend? What are some nice things people have done for you, or you've seen others do that are good ways to treat my girlfriend right?
After reading President Nelson's biography, I can say that he is a good example. You may consider reading it and seeing how he treats women because I was inspired by it. There are a lot of things you can do, but ultimately I think my best advice would be view and treat her as an equal -- in everything.
-Sunday Night Banter
I won't pretend that I'm especially experienced in the dating world, but I can't let this question pass me by without sharing my most hard-learned lesson: make sure you communicate openly and honestly. No amount of chemistry or romantic idealism will make up for a deficit in communication. I know this isn't very glamorous or romantic advice, but I think it's the most practical and helpful thing I can share. My past and only relationship was fraught with communication issues on both sides, and that led to problems. Even on good days, it was hard for me to "feel out" where the relationship was because 2E's emotional engagement was so on-and-off, and I often felt like I was taking complete shots in the dark whenever I would bring up date ideas. Some really stuck the landing, others didn't, and rarely did I ever have any good understanding as to why. Eventually I got tired of this, but instead of addressing the fact that I felt like I was a low priority in her life, I withdrew emotionally and got complacent about the way things were. From there the relationship just sort of gradually atrophied and by the time I made real efforts to put things back on track, it was too late. You don't want to let a lack of communication do the same thing to you.
As a missionary, you check in with your companion at least once a week to do a companionship inventory where you share goals, give credit to your companion for things they do well, and share constructive ideas for improvement both on an individual and companionship level. (You might already know this, in which case you'll have to forgive me for being redundant. I don't get functional writer's omniscience until I graduate from being a probie.) I think repurposing this somewhat for your budding relationship could be a good idea. It never hurts to touch base and see how things are going, where you're both at, and whether either of you have concerns to address or maybe just ideas for activities you'd like to do together. That's not necessarily something you need to do robotically every single week, but it's important to keep from letting your relationship go on autopilot, and it'll help you both get to know each other's preferences fairly quickly. This also would allow you to pretty easily get a good idea of what she does and doesn't like and try to find good ideas for your relationship from there. For example, because 2E was often really busy while we were dating and it was very difficult to schedule things unless they were far in advance, I tried to do smaller spontaneous things that didn't involve taking her away from her responsibilities. During an especially stressful week for her where we didn't even really have time to talk, let alone go out for a date, I made cookies one night and took them to her place. That was something that she appreciated that didn't cost me a lot of time or effort, and it didn't require her to block out an evening for me.
Also, as Alta says below, it's also important to not take things too seriously too quickly. If the relationship ultimately doesn't work out or become serious, things will be fine, and you don't need to go to extreme lengths to save it for its own sake. That's yet another reason honest and open communication is so important!
I'll let the other writers step in from here as they've all got great advice. Best of luck to you in your relationship!
Dear Good Guy,
The best advice I've ever received about relationships is that a relationship/marriage is not about making yourself happy. It's about making your significant other happy. If you constantly have that on your mind (and your SO also realizes that), then you're setting your relationship up for success.
More general advice is to figure out your Love Languages. The way you receive may not be the way your SO receives love. Do those things to show that you care. Carl serves me whenever he can, even when he's busy. I never knew one of my main love language attributes was service until later on in our marriage.
Also, chivalry is never dead. I gave Carl a second chance (when both of our first impressions of each other weren't good), ALL because he opened my car doors when he was driving me home from FHE. Sometimes a girl just wants to feel like a lady. (He still does this for me and we're almost at our 4 year dating anniversary at the end of this month.)
Once a sealer in the temple gave the advice to us to study Adam and Eve's relationship during a session. See what positive attributes they convey as they interact with one another.
Most importantly, don't stop doing nice things for your girlfriend months down the road. Keep being genuine in your actions even after the excitement of being in a relationship and the pitter-patter of your heart settles down.
No relationship is exactly the same... but I think Pebble is amazing, therefore if you are like him, I think you've got some good things going for you. So, my advice is as follows:
Get to know your girlfriend... a no-brainer, I know. But talk about her childhood, things she regrets, the good things she remembers, things she wishes were different, or times she wants to live over and over again. Pebble and I often look up long lists of get-to-know-you questions when we go on dates, and just go through the answers together. We've done so many at this point I feel like I can answer all of his questions for him, and I know he feels the same way. But, those questions bring us closer together, help us understand each other more, and make me love him more the more I learn. There's always something new you don't know about each other.
The more you know her, the more you can know how to be the best boyfriend for her.
What do I mean by that? See, my two love languages (a thing, take note, you should definitely know about your girlfriend) are words of affirmation and acts of service. Pebble knows this, and he takes extra care to ensure I feel loved in these ways. So, he will always tell me I look beautiful, and will complement a specific part of my outfit, makeup, hair, personality, etc. Or, he will tell me reassuringly that my meals are delicious when I cook him food, or, when I come to him with concerns about an exam I'm about to take, he will give me words of support and encouragement. He likes to do my dishes after I make food, vacuum my floors sometimes, will have good discussions about sociology with me, etc., all to help me feel less burdened. By serving me and helping relieve stress, I feel his love for me because he went out of his way to do something sweet and kind.
But not all people want and need the same things to feel loved. Granted, you should definitely be telling your girlfriend she's beautiful, and be helpful, etc. But try to get to know what she loves, and be the best boyfriend you can be for your relationship. Don't just try to copy what other people's relationships look like. Make it your own, and wonderful.
Listen when she's sad, and when she's happy, frustrated, always. Give words of loving advice and wisdom when needed, but also learn when to just say "I understand, and I'm here." Be a peacemaker, and be ready to apologize. Healthy conflict resolution is a very good skill.
Most of all, be yourself. Be the best boyfriend you can be, and take the time to learn what that means, and how you show and feel love.
Be spontaneously sweet sometimes, and do fun exciting things that your girlfriend isn't expecting, but also be a consistently sweet person. For example, one time when we were dating, my husband knew I was pretty stressed out--I had a lot on my plate with my classes and my work and my calling in my ward, and I felt like I never had time for anything. One day I was cleaning up after a ward activity (I was the activities committee chair), thinking about all the homework I had to go do, and Q showed up to help me finish cleaning up and bring me a bouquet of roses. It didn't mean that I suddenly had less to do, but it was so thoughtful and unexpected and really helped turn my day around. It wasn't a huge deal, but I still remember it fondly. So that was a spontaneous sweet thing. But at the same time he was also letting me use his car every day to drive to my job, and making me dinner at least once a week because he knew I didn't love cooking. It's not necessarily as flashy to do someone's dishes as it is to show up with an unexpected bouquet of roses, but doing both things creates a strong basis for a loving relationship.
And while I think Goldie Rose is the bomb, I would sort of disagree with her point that a relationship is only about making the other person happy. When you're dating is not the time to try to save your marriage, so to speak, and it's okay to bail out if the relationship isn't making you happy. That doesn't make you a selfish person, and if you spend all your time in a relationship feeling unhappy but draining yourself to try to make the other person happy, you should reevaluate. Ideally, in a good relationship making the other person happy would make you happy, too, so I still think it's good advice to do kind things for them and think about what you can do to make their life better, but don't ignore your own happiness or well-being.