How do some couples seem to stay in love through all of life’s joys and sorrows? What are their secrets? Can the rest of us have relationships that are just as successful? The answer is yes! The secret of all happy couples is that they DO things that contribute to their relationship’s health. Because of this, they develop skills like the ones listed below:
Kindness is one of the most important ways to predict the levels of satisfaction and stability in your relationship. It is the gift that keeps on giving! The more you receive and see acts of kindness, the more likely you are to be kind yourself. This can lead to increased love and generosity.
Turning towards your partner and actively listening when they express their needs (as well as celebrating their successes) are both good ways of showing kindness.
Researchers who study the role of generosity in marriage define it as "the virtue of giving good things to one's spouse freely and abundantly." The questions they asked participants in a recent study show us examples of “good things” to look for in a relationship: Did spouses offer small kindnesses to each other? Did they regularly express affection? Were they able to forgive?
Researchers also point out that generosity comes from a desire to benefit your spouse, not necessarily to get something good in return
How you and your spouse argue can have a significant impact on the future of your relationship.
Researchers found that couples who show “destructive behaviors” -- yelling, insulting and criticizing -- are more likely to split. But when both partners show “constructive behaviors” during conflict they have a higher chance of staying together. Examples of these kinds of behaviors include saying nice things, calmly discussing problems and actively listening.
Housework is more important in relationships than many people think. Couples who share household chores tend to be happier, but only if they have agreed on clearly defined responsibilities. Doing so can affect your well-being and the way you think about your partnership.
There is no one way to divide tasks. Each couple develops their own strategy. But negotiating how chores will be shared provides an opportunity for you to bond with your partner.
Partners who celebrate one another’s accomplishments and successes are more satisfied with their relationship, say researchers.
An appropriate response to your partner’s promotion at work might be: “Wow, that’s amazing! I’m so proud of you and your accomplishments. Tell me more about it.” That is far more supportive than saying “that’s great, hon. Can you pass the remote?” Fully acknowledging when things go right for your partner is an important part of a healthy relationship.
Studies suggest that married people tend to be happier. A spouse can be a friend for life! In fact, married couples who also think of their partner as their best friend are reported as being nearly twice as satisfied with their relationships.
Sex can be an important part of the health and happiness of your relationship. In general, married people have more sex than those who are single or divorced.
A typical American has sex two to three times per month. But is recommended? Having sex more frequently can increase happiness but only up to a point. Researchers say there is a sweet spot—typically around once per week.
Having an intimate connection with your spouse matters most, and to maintain that, most people don’t need to have sex every day.
Emotional responsiveness is key to building a strong relationship that lasts. Happy couples let their partners know that they are there for them. In doing so, they form emotional connections.
If you criticize and reject your partner, defensiveness and withdrawal will be a likely response. Consequently, couples with these communication patterns can feel disconnected from one another.
Happy couples do the opposite. They nurture feelings of security by creating safe spaces for communication. They talk openly, expressing their needs without resorting to criticism.
Feelings of disconnection can also arise unless couples do things to create positivity. Happy couples often do small, positive things for their partners. .
Want to add more positive interactions between you and your partner? Try expressing appreciation. Compliment your partner every day and make sure to be specific. Show gratitude for something they’ve done for you. Tell them what you love about them.
Researchers point out that sharing appreciation with your partner throughout the day has at least two important benefits: It helps your partner feel good about themselves and it helps remind you why you chose to be in a relationship with your partner to start with.
Think about a time when you felt someone really listened to you. How did it make you feel?
Empathy is a willingness to experience and understand what your partner is feeling--to step into their shoes, so to speak. This doesn’t mean you try and fix your partner’s feelings or problems. Acting with true empathy means you avoid focusing on your own ideas and judgements and instead open yourself to understanding your partner’s experience.
Couples who practice empathy try to understand their partner rather than defend their own point of view. They work together with their partner to ease conflict and tension. Empathy can bring healing and closeness but only if you can fully focus on what your partner is saying. Start by being fully present and then actively listening to what your partner is feeling at that moment.
Written by Dylan Klempner, lead writer, SMART Couples, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, University of Florida
Edited by Kristina Forman, lead editor, SMART Couples, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, University of Florida
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