5 Relationship Tips from the Happiest Couples

Whether you are eagerly anticipating a second date with a new connection or you're just around the corner from celebrating your 30th wedding anniversary, the romantic relationship in your life plays a tremendous role in your happiness. You and your partner savor life’s simple joys together, work towards shared goals, and create meaning and purpose for one another.

No matter whether your relationship is sailing along smoothly or weathering a storm, these 5 tips are habits that the happiest couples rely on to maintain the quality of their relationships.

Express Your Gratitude

Too often we get caught up in the stresses of our day-to-day lives that we take our partners for granted. At best, we may expect that because we’ve been together this long, they understand how much we care. Other (uglier) times, we’re caught up ruminating over resentments that keep us from seeing what we appreciated about our partners in the early stages of our relationships. Research shows that expressing and receiving gratitude with your partner can be a key factor in how healthy and committed the relationship is.

Take time to express your gratitude to your partner. For the small things, such as when she cooks your favorite meal or when he fixes a leaky bathroom pipe, as well as the big things, like letting her know how much her sense of humor adds to your life. Before you express gratitude, you have to make a point of noticing those things your grateful for. 

Prioritize the Relationship Over Individual Needs

Selfishness happens.

And we all know that that it doesn’t get us far in creating a committed relationship with another person. When you want something but know that your desire is likely to cause conflict with your partner, try taking a third perspective: the relationship. By giving "the relationship" a personality and a name, you give it its own set of priorities.

The next time you feel frustrated about a decision your partner made, decide if addressing the issue is productive for the relationship. If it represents a deeper conflict that needs to be resolved, have a conversation. If it’s a point of contention that you know just brings up hurt feelings, work on easing your frustration instead. Prioritizing the relationship over either individual’s needs allows for the relationship (and ultimately both partners) to thrive.

Acknowledge Your Differences

The differences between you and you partner may create friction at times, but they’re also what make your relationship rich. Identify two or three of the qualities or traits that you really respect and admire in your partner that you personally don’t share. Name these strengths: maybe honesty, attentiveness, generosity, or curiosity. And when you see them acting from one of these strengths, notice how you appreciate what makes the two of you different and tell them. Offer a genuine compliment. Even better, provide opportunities for their strengths to shine. If your partner is particularly creative, seek out his help when you’re tasked with a creating a theme for a holiday party at the office.

Address Conflict Constructively

Marriage research John Gottman acknowledges that couples fight.

Two individuals vying for expression in a shared life inevitably leads to conflict. The difference between the happiest couples and those who end up splitting up is not whether or not they fight, but how they do it.

After observing many couples communicate about issues in their relationship, Gottman advises couples to avoid four common behaviors when addressing conflict:

Criticism—When complaints about specific behaviors (which is healthy communication) turns to global criticism about a person’s character.

Contempt—When we throw verbal punches at our partner with the intent to insult.

Defensiveness—When we respond by making excuses and denying responsibility and we stop working to understand the other person’s perspective.

Stonewalling—When we give up responding to arguments and instead remain silent, look away, or walk away.

To avoid these, work to constructively address complaints, hear each other’s perspectives empathically, and agree to take a 20-minute break from the conversation if things are getting too heated.

Create Togetherness

The best relationships offer us a chance to experience the best of life in communion with another person. Sharing experiences makes them come alive. And creating a history of positive moments binds relationships together.

When your partner has a bit of good news to share or is excited to tell you something, the way you respond matters. But the opportunities to have these positive conversations often get overlooked. Pay attention to these moments of excitement in your partner and capitalize on her positive emotion by leaning in to the conversation and being authentically interested.

And beyond talking about the good things, make sharing positive experiences together a focal point of your relationship. Set goals together and encourage one another towards success. Create routines in which you and your partner are able to slow down and step away from the busy-ness of your lives to enjoy one another. Whether it’s visiting your favorite coffee shop, taking photos together, playing a board game, or working on a home project, find activities that uniquely represent your relationship and experience them as a team.

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