In the beginning, relationships can be easy. They're new and exciting. You put your best foot forward. You flatter, flirt, and have fun! However, as you become more comfortable, you may also become more complacent. For those wondering how to be happy in a relationship for the long-haul, we spoke with happy couples, both young and old, to find out how they stay blissful over time!
Be Generous With Compliments and Small Gestures
In case you didn't know, one of the secrets to long-lasting happiness is giving to others. Research shows that happy people become happier and more grateful when they engage in regular acts of kindness. Termed the 'counting kindnesses intervention', when couples make a conscious effort to be more aware of their own kind behavior, they are proven to have a better life satisfaction.
Happy couples note that they take the time to compliment their partner and to do small things to make their partner's life easier. These can include:
- Doing a chore that their partner hates
- Prepping their significant other's morning beverage
- Bringing home dessert from their spouse's favorite spot
- Planning a surprise date night in the middle of the week
- Getting the kids ready for school so their significant other can sleep in for a few extra minutes
- Acknowledging their partner's amazing impact in their life to others
- Telling their partner thank you for the things that are normally taken for granted, such as:
- Mowing the lawn
- Doing the laundry
- Handling the kids
None of these gestures need to be expensive. The point is to see your partner and to let them know you value them. Happy couples also note that their compliments can be serious or silly!
Learn Each Other's Love Languages
Dr. Gary Chapman, a veteran marriage counselor, developed a theory that there are five love languages - physical touch, spending quality time together, words of affirmation, engaging in acts of service, and receiving gifts. These are the ways that people give and recieve love.
It's likely that your partner's love language doesn't match yours, and that's okay. What is important is that you determine your preferences and those of your partner so that you can connect on a deeper level and avoid conflict.
Why does all this matter? Let's say your love language is spending quality time together, but your partner's language is gifts. If he brings home a bouquet of flowers and you don't make a big show over the gesture, he may assume that you are ungrateful. In the same respect, he may come home from work and retreat to the den to play video games, leaving you feeling neglected.
Happy couples stress that by knowing what matters most to your partner, you can make more meaningful gestures, ensuring that your actions are noticed and match what makes them feel most loved.
Find Hobbies to Enjoy Together
When you date, it's exciting to try new and different things because you're eager to spend time with your person. However, once you become comfortable, it's easy to let your significant other go off to enjoy their favorite pastimes solo, while you engage in something you find more interesting.
If you want to know how to be happy in a relationship, another key to success is enjoying time together! Happy couples note that if you don't have a present pastime that you both find interesting, find a new one that you can share together.
Hobbies can be as involved as playing pickleball every week or as simple as playing canasta together on your iPads while sitting in the same room. All that matters is that both of you like the activity and that you make time to do it regularly.
Continue to Learn About Each Other
Humans are complex creatures. We change over time. 'How was your day?' isn't enough. Happy couples don't just want to run through the motions. They want to continuously connect with their person and learn what makes them tick. What do they dream about? What are their career goals? What skills do they wish they had? What do they want to change about their life?
One of the best ways to be happy in a relationship is to fully invest in it. Ask the tough questions and inquire about random topics.
Don't Stew - Speak Up When Issues Arise
What do couples do in a relationship when problems arise? Many of those who have a solid foundation say the same thing - they voice their issues when they come up and they do so in a calm and collected manner. It's important to remember that just because something makes you angry doesn't mean you need to yell.
Asking your partner to take a break from what they are doing to have a discussion or help you with a task may seem like an inconvenience, but it can be one of the easiest ways to alert them to your needs and facilitate change.
Your partner is not a mind reader. Staying silent is only doing yourself a disservice. Moreover, huffing and puffing or slamming doors when you want attention when you are upset can make your partner less receptive to an open and constructive conversation. Just be upfront and state your needs.
Pick Your Battles
When it comes to fights, happy couples will tell you that sometimes it's better to agree to disagree. Some arguments really do matter, but always ask yourself, "what am I gaining from being 'right' in this moment?" If the reward is minimal, then is it really worth it? Put your pride at the door and when things don't matter, be like Elsa, and let it go!
Say 'I Love You' Before Bed, Even When You're Upset With Each Other
Disagreements can get the better of the best of us, but one big piece of advice that happy couples always seem to give is to never go to bed angry. Science backs this piece of sage advice for one very specific reason behind it - when you go to bed angry, your sleep suffers.
This can actually bring more conflict the following day. In the study "Don't Go to Bed Angry: Attachment, Conflict, and Affective and Physiological Reactivity" the researchers found that "conflict resolution was more effective when both partners were rested. If either partner had slept poorly, they had more trouble understanding their partner's feelings and resolving a problem."
Thus, when an argument arises, try to resolve it. Easier said than done, am I right? How do you solve the seemingly unsolvable problem? Here are a few key things to remember in any argument:
- Determine what you are actually arguing about
- Consider your partner's perspective
- Always be willing to compromise - this is a partnership
- Count to five before you react
- Don't bring up the past - deal with what is going on in the present
Finally, we all know that just because an argument ends, it doesn't mean that anger doesn't linger. Try to push past these feelings and take a moment to tell your partner that you love them before flipping off the lights for bed. Last words mean everything.
Work as a Team
This is a big piece of advice from happy couples who are also parents. Staying at home with the kids is a job. Going to work is a job. That means when it comes to household chores, you are equal partners. This also applies to the kids when you are both home. One parent should not be responsible for the kids 24 hours a day.
You may be tired when you get done with work, but so is your partner. Tag in for bath and bedtime routines. Help with homework. Prep lunches for the next day. Remember, teamwork makes the dream work!
Second babies are harder than the first. This is not necessarily because they are a more difficult child, but rather, that there are now two children to care for - a newborn and what is likely a toddler. The happiest couples step up their teamwork during this trying time.
Put in 110% and Expect Nothing in Return
No one can give it their all, 100% of the time. At some point, everyone needs a break. There will be days where you give more than you get. Part of being in a healthy relationship is knowing that you can lean on your partner when you need a bit of a breather.
The person who doesn't get a break normally reaches a tipping point that leads to an argument. Skip this scenario by scheduling time for each of you to recharge separately and together. For instance, agree that each of you get two nights per week where you have two hours to spend at your leisure. Then, set another time for a date night to spend together. Couples with kids can also add in a night for family, with one night to spare.
Check In and Play Throughout the Day
Minus sleep, a US Administration of Children and Families survey on married couples spending time together showed that the average couple only spends four hours in the same room together each day. This includes an hour of television time and up to an hour of household duties.
So unless you work with your significant other, you rarely get to spend quality time with them. Happy couples advise you change this by using technology to your advantage. Send text updates about your day, share funny memes and videos, and play texting games to stay engaged and connected.
Take Electronic-Free Time to Catch Up
Since time at home is limited with your significant other, make the most of these moments! Try to unplug and put all of your attention on your partner for a portion of time each day, say at least 15 minutes. This is the perfect time to share, vent, laugh, and engage with the person who you fell in love with. By putting your devices down and turning off the television, you can engage in active listening and help your person feel seen and heard.
Work Out Together
Sunshine is a natural mood booster, so why not workout outside with your significant other? Happy couples say that when they sweat together, it not only improves their overall relationship, but it also enhances their sex life. These couple workouts can be as intense as a Crossfit session or as simple as taking walks together.
Happy Couples Find Their Bliss in Unique Ways
The final piece of advice that happy couples have is to focus your attention on yourselves. What works for some couples will not be right for others. Find what makes the two of you happy and avoid making comparisons.