by Ash Roy
It’s important to understand that love is not just about finding the right person; it’s about working with them to create the right relationship.
Do you struggle in your relationship with your significant other from time to time? Do you wonder if there’s a way to live together more harmoniously?
I’ve been there.
Can I tell you a little secret?
Most “happy, healthy couples” don’t expect to be happy and harmonious all the time. They deal with their little quibbles and make conscious choices that lead to happiness as a couple in the long-term.
Being in a relationship with one person for more than a few years is one heck of a ride. It ain’t always easy. In fact, it’s hard a lot of the time.
See, it’s not about finding the right one, but rather about being the right one.
Before I got married, I embarked on a mini research project. I asked over 100 couples who’d been married for more than 20 years this one question: “What’s the secret to a happy marriage?”
What I learned from them really broadened my perspective on relationships. It set a realistic framework for my marriage. Ten years later, my wife and I still love each other dearly — despite the various ups and downs all marriages are subject to.
The lessons that research project taught me, combined with my own experiences, have revealed key daily habits necessary for a happy, healthy relationship.
Here are 10 things happy, healthy couples do every day:
1. They cherish their differences.
Have you noticed a happy couple together? They aren’t fiercely independent or pathologically dependent. They’ve struck a healthy medium.
I think of it as interdependence. They can agree to disagree on the little things.
Sure, they’re aligned on the big things like life goals. But they don’t feel that they have to like the same music and share a favorite color. They don’t expect their partner to approve of all their choices. Each partner stands in his or her own power and respects the other’s opinion.
Each partner is a happy and successful person in his or her own right.
2. They keep their assumptions in check.
We go into most situations with certain assumptions —based on our life experiences.
Let’s say one partner grew up in a touchy-feely family and the other didn’t. The one who did grow up in a touchy-feely family is likely to interpret the other’s behavior as distant or indifferent.
The incorrect assumption? To express affection, we must be touchy-feely. That assumption right there can wreak havoc in a relationship!
The solution? Be mindful of your underlying assumptions that sabotage your relationship.
So how do you actually do this? The next time you’re upset with your partner, check in with yourself first. Ask yourself: “What are the facts and what are my opinions (based on my assumptions) about this situation?”
Fact: He’s not very physically expressive.
Opinion (based on your assumptions): He doesn’t love me as much as I love him.
Now that you’ve separated the facts from your opinion, question your opinion. Does that opinion help or hurt your relationship? I find this kind of self-inquiry to be surprisingly powerful. Try it. (Read The Mastery of Love.)
3. They don’t confuse their spouse with a carnival psychic.
It’s quite common to think of our partner as an extension of ourselves. It just happens. We often assume they know what we’re thinking… almost as if he or she lives in our head.
Here’s an example: John loves his wife Alice. They’ve been married for 8 years. Alice comes back from an awful day at work and John greets her enthusiastically.
Alice somehow expects John to know she’s had a bad day. She wants space and finds his enthusiasm annoying. Meanwhile, John has no idea what’s going through Alice’s mind, and is trying to work out why she’s so cold and distant.
See the problem here?
We often assume our partners live in our heads and then expect them to respond to our un-communicated frustrations.
Not. Going. To. Happen.
Happy, healthy couples have worked this out. They make a conscious effort to communicate their needs to each other — even if it seems obvious.
Especially when it seems obvious.
4. They do their best to step into each other’s shoes.
In other words, they are mindful of each other’s unique perspective.
Imagine this: You know your partner had very little sleep last night. If you are mindful of this, you’ll interpret their abruptness through their lens (not yours): “I’m tired and I’m not myself right now.”
You won’t take things as personally as you otherwise would have. You’ll realize it has nothing to do with you and won’t feel hurt. You won’t react with anger.
Even better, you’re more likely to be considerate and offer to give them a back rub to take the edge off. A little empathy driven shift in perspective goes a really long way.
5. They recognize the value of personal growth.
You know how to tell if something is alive and well? You look for evidence of growth.
Great relationships usually have partners committed to lifelong learning and growth. They’re curious about things. They are keen to learn from the world and from each other.
Because of their love for learning they afford each other the freedom to develop as individuals within the relationship.
I’ve seen quite a lot of unhappiness in relationships caused by one or both partners being clingy. They don’t want their significant other to change so they don’t have to change themselves.
But here’s the simple truth: Change is a part of the universe and humans are no exception.
If you want to have a successful relationship you’ve got to embrace learning and personal growth with open arms.
6. They assume the best of intentions.
Life throws a lot of challenges in every couple’s way. Happy, healthy couples have figured out the solution lies in consciously adopting an optimistic attitude towards each other and the world in general.
In practice, this means they choose to look for good intentions behind each other’s actions rather than assuming the worst. They build their relationship on this platform of faith in each other.
The result? Their approach engenders trust and respect — two key cornerstones of a successful relationship.
Cultivating learned optimism gives you an opportunity to ‘set the tone’ in the relationship. You feed off each other’s energy and can create a bond where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. (Marc and Angel discuss this in more detail in the “Relationships” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
7. They seek rapport even in moments of conflict.
Smart couples know the importance of mirroring their partner’s feelings by repeating their partner’s words.
“What I heard you say was that you’re very angry and hurt about my having forgotten your birthday. I’m sorry that I forgot your birthday and I understand that you’re angry and hurt. I’d feel the same way if I were you.”
By repeating their partner’s exact words and phrases it forces them to empathize deeply.
Honoring each other’s feelings reinforces mutual trust and respect and builds deep understanding.
8. They figure out a way to reconnect.
One of the best books on relationships that I’ve read is called Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix. Hendrix believes the main reason couples fight is because they feel disconnected. And happy, healthy couples have figured out ways to reconnect. They both take individual responsibility to reconnect after a little argument or any sort of friction that inevitably creeps into their day-to-day lives.
They don’t let their daily resentments eat away at the relationship.
Sure, they give each other space when necessary, but then they figure out a way to reconnect with each other — usually via acts of good will and kindness.
A bunch of flowers picked from the garden. A bit of humor to lighten the mood. A hug. Heck, even a smile. It doesn’t really matter what. They do something to reconnect and they do it as soon as possible.
9. They make time to nurture their relationship. (Especially if they have kids!)
Ever seen a couple with kids at the grocery store. See that look on their faces? Like they’re about to explode. That’s cause they are!
Kids can obliterate essential ‘couple time’ — critical to any happy relationship.
Happy, healthy couples know this and they make time to spend exclusively with each other. Whether this means getting a babysitter and having a date night every week or just having a glass of wine together after the kids have gone to bed. They make sure it happens.
It’s essential to make time! I can’t stress it enough. Don’t do this and it could be years before you really connect with each again — if at all! And if you eventually do you won’t recognize each other.
So, when was the last time you went out for a planned date with your partner?
10. They are committed to weathering the peaks and valleys.
I’ve saved the best for last, because this is the most crucial point of them all.
Show me any great couple and I’ll show you two people who are committed to making their relationship work. No. Matter. What. They put in the effort day in and day out. They’re willing to have the difficult conversations. They fight, but they admit to their mistakes and apologize. They argue, but make the effort to understand the other’s perspective.
Because every healthy relationship needs an argument every now and then… just to prove that it is strong enough to survive. Long-term relationships, the ones that matter, are all about weathering the peaks and the valleys.
Happy, healthy couples know this, and they persevere. They don’t give up on each other. They stick it out.
A happy, healthy long-term relationship as I’ve described in this post may be one decision away from you.
And that’s the decision to be that ideal partner you’re looking for in your partner. In most cases, what you bring into the relationship has a direct impact on what you get out of it.
I believe every one of us is capable of making this decision.
I did. And so can you.
It won’t be easy. But it’s well worth it in the end.
In your experience, what helps create a happy, healthy relationship? Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts with the community.
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Author Bio: Ash Roy teaches busy people to work smart and live better by eliminating stress and increasing productivity. Download a free copy of 10 Time Saving Tools That’ll Make You A Productivity Ninja.