How do I know how to treat her well? And how do I know if I succeed?

Obviously, how to act within a relationship must spring from my broader ethics on how to relate to other people. However, just as I do not think through from a core ethical principle in order to decide how I interact with someone I run into in the street, I like to have some broad rules to guide how I interact with my partner.

I guess the analogy could be: in order to understand how to make my computer save my work, I could learn programming, and discover exactly how to assign a region of memory, and then fill it bit-wise with my work.
Alternatively, I could do some playing around in Office until I find out how to say 'Save'.
Of course, for a full understanding I should learn programming - I'll be less likely to go wrong, and my understanding will have a surer foundation which I can more readily apply to similar but distinct situations. Nonetheless, the fast and dirty method has it's uses, especially when a response is required quickly.

So: the complete method requires both rational thought and empirical observation of how interactions between us work, and what outcomes will maximize the good. And, you know what, I am (perhaps better to say 'we are') working on that. However, that's based as much on direct experience of what works well between us, as it is on general principles.
In the interim, I do tend to judge what I am doing on a few criteria.

1) Priorities.
My partner is not everything, and she does not get all my time, effort or energies. However, she should have first call on them. I am more confident and more forceful in expressing my desires than she is: therefore on balance, I must put her desires first. I must certainly encourage her to fully express her wishes, and listen to them carefully.
We are getting better at this, but it's something I do have to keep in mind.

2) Interaction and shared pursuits.
We need some space and separation from one another, so that we don't become the couple-morph chimera beast. That said, there is much to appreciate about having some project that we can share. At present the main one is planning out our wedding, but we have also collaborated in running a charity fund-raiser. Less equally, she is writing a novel; I act as main sounding board for ideas and revisions, and occasional walking thesaurus. When I am reading a work of philosophy, I improve my understanding by talking through particularly interesting points with her. And so on.

Basically, while we are entirely comfortable with each other in silent concentration, doing our own thing...that would get boring if it were all we did. Likewise, conversation runs dry if I am only telling her of things I do, and vice versa, rather than exploring or creating something together.

3) Contribution of the random.

Inspired by Danny Wallace (of Join Me! fame), I try to not just get things right, like helping Rho out and supporting her when she needs it, but also to occasionally sweep her off her feet.
Examples include: when I agreed to sort out lunch, rather than bringing her a sandwich, taking her for a picnic in the park; when I sat back from my computer and looked over at her, only to be reminded of how lovely she looks, writing her a note to tell her so and then hiding it somewhere she'll find it later; when I've gone to the supermarket for bread and milk or similar, coming back with those and something she really likes.

Once again, there is more, but this post is getting pretty long, so until next time...

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