Do you know any couples who seem like they’re kind of just…happier? There’s something about the way they look at each other, laugh together, or seem to want to be with each other. We’re not talking about newlyweds here, either. Some of these couples have been married a long, long time.
If you’ve wondered what the secret is to being a couple like this, of course, the answer is that there isn’t any one “secret.” And the truth is that any couple, no matter how happy they appear, can run into serious trouble. But researchers do know that there are certain habits and ways of communicating that seem to help couples feel more satisfied. If you’d like to increase your own marital happiness (and who doesn’t?), try changing up your habits to include a few of these.
Most of us text our partners at least a couple of times a day, and sometimes many times a day. Much of the time, these texts may be on the practical side—but try making time for some purely loving, affectionate messages, too. It only takes a second, and studies show it can enhance your relationship.
It can be hard enough to find time to talk—and when we do, it may be about work, the kids, family matter, or the house. But there’s a strong argument for stepping outside these familiar topics and into the realm of those bigger, more meaningful topics. You know… the ones you used to talk about back when you were dating. What’s your dream vacation? How do you hope to be remembered? What hobby do you secretly want to start? A large study of couples found that those who share intimate details like these are happier.
In the hustle and bustle of daily life, we may forget to slow down and physically connect with our spouses. We’re not (just) talking about sex here, but all kinds of physical connection, from handholding to long hugs to daily kisses and caresses. Data show that people in physically affectionate relationships are happier and more satisfied. (By the way, cuddling and nonsexual affection seem to be especially important to men.)
Every day, as we spend time together, we make little comments and observations that “invite” our spouse to connect. Did you hear about that story in the news? This crazy thing happened to me at work. Look at this beautiful sunset! Researchers have found that people in happy relationships respond to these “bids” for connection positively and openly, while those whose relationships are less happy are more likely to ignore or not respond. Every day, remember to turn towards, not away.
Married life can get busy, crazy, and sometimes very task-oriented. Did you pick up the cold medicine? What about the dry cleaning? We have parent-teacher conferences tonight! But if we forget to make time for enjoyment and stress-free good times together, we lose out. According to research by psychologist Howard Markman, couples who invest in fun and remember to celebrate enjoy happier relationships.
When was the last time you sincerely thanked your spouse for something he or she did? Unfortunately, sometimes we tend to focus on what our partners mess up, and forget to say “thanks” for everything they do right. But gratitude and appreciation play a key role in nurturing commitment and keeping relationships together.
Adding a few more couple rituals to your day, year, or routine can help the two of you build a special shared culture that is just about the couple. Whether it’s “Wednesday Donut Day,” a daily sunset walk with the dog, a nighttime prayer together, or the way you celebrate the new basketball season, these moments will help create memories and bring you closer.
Every couple fights and experiences problems, but one factor that can really make a difference, experts find, is how well we recover from these negative moments. Next time things get a little “broken,” be sure to bring a “repair” to the table with love, honesty, and good humor. There can be a hundred different ways to do this. The important thing is to make the effort with an open heart.
It may seem obvious, but sometimes we all need a reminder: kindness counts. Over time, couples who go the extra mile to help each other out in little ways (like filling up the car with gas, doing the dishes even when it’s not “your turn,” or picking up those favorite muffins at the bakery) are more likely to be happy than those who aren’t as generous or kind with one another.
Does one of you tend to trundle off to bed early while the other one stays up reading, working, watching TV, or on the Internet? It’s a familiar situation for lots of couples--especially if someone has to get up early, or if one of you is a “night owl” while the other is a “lark.” But you might want to see if you can change up this habit, at least some of the time. Research suggests that couples who go to bed at the same time report less conflict, more serious conversation, and more sex. Time to snuggle up.
Benson, K. (2017). Repair is the secret weapon of emotionally connected couples. Retrieved from https://www.gottman.com/blog/repair-secret-weapon-emotionally-connected-couples/
Heitler, S. Does gratitude matter in marriage? Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/resolution-not-conflict/201207/does-gratitude-matter-in-marriage
Khalaf, D & C. (2017). How to make repair attempts so your partner feels loved. Retrieved from https://www.gottman.com/blog/make-repair-attempts-partner-feels-loved/
Jayson, S. (2011). Married couples who play together stay together. Retrieved from https://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/2008-07-15-fun-in-marriage_N.htm
Leyba, E. (2016). If your partner's in bed, you should be, too. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/joyful-parenting/201603/if-your-partners-in-bed-you-should-be-too
Ross, V. (2013). 5 things blissful couples do. Retrived from http://www.oprah.com/relationships/habits-of-happy-couples-happy-couples-secrets/all
Schade, L. C., Sandberg, J., Bean, R., Busby, D., & Coyne, S. (2013). Using technology to connect in romantic relationships: effects on attachment, relationship satisfaction, and stability in emerging adults. Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy, 12(4), 314-338. https://doi.org/10.1080/15332691.2013.836051
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