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Love: how to find it, how to keep it, and how to be happy in it, is one of the most discussed and pondered subjects in our world.
What makes for a happy relationship? How do I create a happy relationship? The answer to these questions is complex. Opinions on the subject could–and do– fill thousands of books.
While there may be no one perfect answer, over the years patterns have emerged. In healthy and happy relationships, couples often display similar traits or behaviors, across generations and even cultures. We see time and again that there are very definite habits that some couples adopt which seem to result in a satisfying, long-lasting relationship. Just what are those habits? We’ve got 7 of them here for you: habits of happy couples that point to deep connection, strong love, and fulfilling lives.
They make time for physical affection
Couples who are happiest may be those who take time every day to connect, particularly physically. There are so many benefits that physical closeness creates, such as deeper bonding and reduced stress. Couples that make a daily habit of engaging in a significant hug, who spend time cuddling together, or engage in other types of physical intimacy, including sex, report higher rates of happiness in their relationship.
It’s not surprising, and you don’t need to be a psychologist or scientist to understand why physical closeness and affection would be good for us. Think of how comforting an embrace feels. How sweet and simple holding hands can be. Or how the time spent wrapped in each other’s arms in bed can feel so magical.
Physical closeness doesn’t always come easily to us. For some couples, cuddling is not in the daily schedule, and that is okay. But is it allowing them to be happy in their relationship?
As humans are physical, social people, it could be that you and your partner need to give more daily physical closeness a try. Until you spend that time together, you may not know how much of a difference it could make.
Physical Intimacy Challenge: If you want to integrate more physical interaction together into your relationship, take time this week to try to build a new habit.
One option is the 30-second kiss. For 30 seconds each day this week, you and your partner will meet for a long, lingering kiss.
Prioritizing even half a minute per day to focus on your closeness and your relationship is profound. You really can’t do this exercise without having some benefits come from it. We’re willing to bet you’ll find yourself enjoying this brief encounter very much, and you might just find it sets an entirely different tone for the day.
They know how to fight fair
One of the major traits of happy couples is that they are good at solving conflict.
Even the best love stories have tales of woe, pain, and discord. Fighting is a normal part of any marriage or relationship. And real love often demands it. But happy couples have learned how best to deal with that conflict when it arises. This is a huge part of maintaining a successful relationship. For such couples, conflict doesn’t spell trouble, but merely presents an opportunity to learn and grow together.
Happy couples always remember that they are on the same team. When a conflict arises, they know that it’s the two of them together against the problem, not the two of them against one another. This concept alone can make a big difference in the outcome of a disagreement (or even prevent one altogether).
So what do these couples know about fighting that you don’t?
It could be a lot of things. First of all, handling conflict well isn’t something that happens overnight. The most successful couples know that a relationship takes work, and conflict management can be a major part of this. In other words, the couple that knows how to fight fair has likely put in the time. They’ve argued again and again and discovered tools and approaches that work for them and for their relationship.
For you, this means that conflict resolution skills take time. And that’s okay. If you’re still struggling in this area, the best thing you can do is keep learning more about healthy conflict and apply the principles you learn. (Check out these great marriage and relationships books for some guidance).
Also, focus on those basic things, skills that most of us know can help with conflict: Don’t hold grudges. Don’t bring up old issues during your current fight. Cool your heads before discussing a problem together. Be aware of your words.
With every fight, if you make an effort to become better at resolving relationship conflict, you’ll find that the improvements stack up. After all, this is how habits are formed!
Fight Fair Challenge: Make a goal for yourself this week that you’ll take a different approach in a conflict situation. Be a keen observer and see how this goes.
They tell each other what they need
As a couple, how often do you explicitly tell your partner what it is you’re needing or feeling? It may be less often than you think.
So many times, it’s easy to feel like our partner should automatically “know'” what it is that we’re thinking, feeling, or needing. But the reality is that feelings are messy and partners aren’t mindreaders. Even after 8 years with my husband, I still can’t always tell what it is that’s going on in his head. As intuitive as I believe myself to be, there’s always more to discover about him.
But what do happy couples do about this? They give it to each other straight.
When I am not sure what Nathan is feeling or needing, I ask him directly. And conversely, when I’m feeling stressed and could use a little extra love, affection, or time alone, I let him know just as directly.
Healthy, happy couples discuss their needs, wants, emotions, and everything with straightforwardness and candor. It’s really not a secret. The way to get your needs met and feel happy, supported, and secure, is to be able to talk about those things without reservation. To me, this is one of the most important pieces of relationship advice for couples.
And when it comes to habits, this is one that a couple should practice together daily. Make time each and every day to discuss what’s going on with you and how your partner could help. This type of honest, open communication is life-changing.
It may feel unfamiliar at first, particularly if you’re not used to it. So start small.
Sharing Your Needs Challenge: Being open with your partner about stuff doesn’t have to be complicated. For one week, try incorporating this as a new relationship ritual: take time every morning or every night (perhaps right before you go to bed) to share just one good and bad thing that happened that day. Then share one thing about your partner that you’re grateful for.
By just offering up these 3 small pieces of information, you’re paving the way together to more open dialogues. The next step? Asking one another how you could help your partner with that bad thing that happened. But that’s for next week.
They prioritize their relationship—monthly, weekly, and daily
All of the major habits of healthy couples can really be summed up in this one: they make their relationship a priority.
It’s a relationship myth that marriage doesn’t take work. It takes a whole lot of it! But it’s the most worthwhile work there is.
Even with your soulmate or the “perfect” partner, you’ll quickly discover that a long-term relationship demands work and effort. This isn’t a bad thing. Rather, it’s an amazing thing. Relationships change us and make us into better people. That’s an awesome outcome. And at the same time, they help us build happy lives filled with love.
So a relationship is work. Have I said it enough? Once more for the people in the back!
This work doesn’t have to be a slog, however. Much of the time (and ideally, most of the time) relationships are easy, light, and joyful. Work is still happening, but it’s more of the behind-the-scenes maintenance work that’s going on.
Well, one of the habits of happily married couples is exactly this: a commitment to keep up with that relationship work on a regular basis. In other words, prioritizing the partnership every day.
This habit is less about action than about mindset. While actions are definitely a crucial part of building these happy couple habits, this one demands the right attitude. It’s about making decisions (large and small) that focus on the wellbeing of the relationship. It’s when you make sure that you’re setting aside time to be together and attentive. It’s when you decline an invitation to a night out with friends because you know that date night hasn’t happened in a while, and you recognize that spending time together is so important. All those little actions, springing from the right mindset, add up into a strong habit, and a clear sense of priorities.
Priority Challenge: Schedule a “marriage meeting” for some time in the next week. Here, you and your partner will check in about your relationship. If possible, come up with some ideas on how you can each improve in certain aspects. Discuss your next special date night together.
They express gratitude
Happy couples regularly show one another their gratitude.
Nathan and I share our daily gratitudes every night before we go to bed, and it’s a great way to feel connected and appreciated.
But you don’t have to show your grateful hearts exactly like that. There are so many ways to show your thankfulness to your partner, and to make sure they know they have your love and your appreciation.
Kind words and compliments are always welcome, of course, but your partner may best receive love and gratitude in other ways. This is where knowing your partner’s love language can come in handy. If your partner speaks the language of physical touch, for instance, a gentle hug after he’s done something helpful around the house can speak louder than words.
Or, maybe she will feel your love most deeply when you make her a handmade gift. These simple expressions of gratitude are important, but what matters most of all, is that you share them. However you do it, make an effort every day to let your partner know how awesome they are, and how much you treasure them.
Gratitude Challenge: Challenge yourself every morning to think about one way you could show your partner you love and appreciate them today. Then do it.
They give the benefit of the doubt
Want a simple way to start a fight? Be suspicious.
So many conflicts begin this very same way: a partner does something which has a negative impact on you, hurts your feelings, etc. The wrong response is to jump to conclusions, assuming your partner has bad intentions and took such action on purpose, perhaps even meaning to hurt you. Is this logical? Is this reasonable? Probably not, unless you’re living in a toxic relationship.
In the vast majority of relationships, partners want only the best for each other. Of course, we humans are messy, ridden with faults, and oh-so-liable to mess up. But in our hearts, we make decisions and take actions based on love and good intentions.
What do happy couples do? they remember this! When bad things happen, strong couples err on the side of trust. They give their partner the benefit of the doubt. They don’t zero in on blame. They don’t catalog past mistakes and faults and then list them yet again when their partner makes an error. Instead, they focus on the love that binds them together, and remember that the way to build something stronger is to always move towards that love and towards trust.
Benefit of the Doubt Challenge: Practice forgiveness this week. There may be a day or an instance in which your spouse says or does something hurtful. (And let’s face it, they probably will, and you probably will, too). But prioritize grace and erring on the side of trust. You might be amazed how much lighter you feel when you come at things from this different perspective.
They don’t neglect self-care
Surprisingly, one of the most important healthy marriage habits involves the individuals and not the couple. That is the habit of self-care.
You can’t bring your best to the relationship if you’re not taking care of yourself. And the same goes for your partner. Those who practice regular self-care are able to bring their very best to the table.
Marriage involves meeting the needs of your partner but it does not mean neglecting your own. In relationships, we must always be making an effort to tend to our physical, emotional, and mental needs. [Read next: What a Husband Needs from His Wife and What a Wife Needs from Her Husband ]
What does this mean? This can mean many things! It may mean that you have got to set aside alone time in your day or week, allowing you to recharge and reboot. Or, it might mean you need to schedule regular nights with friends to have some social time.
It might mean that you need to look into getting therapy. If you’re struggling with some things (and who isn’t) part of self-care may involve finding an awesome therapist to help you sort of these issues. It might mean making sure you go to bed at a reasonable hour, drink enough water, and take your multivitamin.
Self-care can also mean just making time for your self: for the things you love and the activities you enjoy. Does the happy couple always share common interests? Not always. This is totally okay. But don’t neglect the things you love even if your partner isn’t that keen on them. In fact, having separate interests is actually healthy. You absolutely don’t need to do everything together to have an awesome marriage and a great love story.
Self-Care Challenge: What’s something you love to do that you’ve been putting off? Pencil in some time for that thing this week.
Read these next:
- Getting Through Hard Times as a Couple
- 5 Tried-and-True Tips For Building Intimacy in a Relationship
- The Ultimate List of Real Relationship Goals
- 20 Fun Relationship Quizzes To Take
- 10 Ways to Maintain Connection in a Relationship
- Should I Propose Before or After Dinner?
- How to Fall Back in Love with Your Partner: Tips from 10+ Years of Marriage
- How to Save Your Marriage: 7 Tried & True Tips for You
- Top 10 Relationship Green Flags for a Healthy Relationship
Amy Hartle is the author of Do You Love Me? How To Stop Seeking Reassurance in Relationships, a book on reassurance seeking and relationship anxiety. Both her book and this blog are born of personal experience; Amy shares expert relationship advice from the lessons learned during her own 10+ years with her husband, as well as couples travel tips and romantic getaway recommendations, all gleaned while traveling the world together.