Happy relationships don’t happen by accident. It takes two emotionally healthy, loving people who are committed to being the best partners they can be. Do you want to know how the happiest couples stay happy and keep their connection strong along the way? Here’s what the top relationship experts say:
- They say, “I love you” every day. And they mean it.
Simple, yet so powerful.
- They kiss passionately every morning and evening.
Far from being a meaningless habit, this ensures that you connect, even for just a moment, at least twice a day. When you make the time to make eye contact with your partner and kiss them, it shows that you prioritize your relationship even during the busiest of mornings or evenings.
- They surprise each other with thoughtful acts and genuine compliments.
According to relationship expert Dr. Jack Ito, little acts of love and kindness go a long way. In his article “How to Show Love in Marriage,” he writes that the big things we do in marriage only get us so far. Working full-time to pay the mortgage, making meals, caring for children—these things are necessary, expected, and connected with duty. Little extras, however, are obviously done because you want to do them. They show your spouse you’re willing to put in extra effort because he/she is worth it.
When I think about it, I do feel a strong sense of being loved when my husband does the simplest things for me, like when he cleans the kitty litter boxes or texts me during the day to see how I am. Or when he folds the laundry for me, without me having to ask him. That’s love, my friend.
- They focus on the things they like about their partner, rather than the things they don’t.
This positive perspective, which is a trend among the happiest couples in decades of research by The Gottman Institute, is something that increases warmth, friendship and feeling generally liked by their partner. This doesn’t mean that they let their standards for the relationship go out the window. But when these couples are met with perpetual problems, even then they find the humor in their differences and work to find temporary compromises that enable them to continue appreciating their partner for who they are.
- They engage in a little PDA.
The happiest couples aren’t afraid to show affection to each other – even in public. So, go ahead and hold your spouse’s hand when you’re shopping in the mall or snuggle up to them when you’re at the movies with your friends. It’s sappy, but a little PDA can go a long way.”
- They have fun and laugh together!
It’s easy for a relationship to deteriorate into just talking about day-to-day logistics, saving your funny anecdotes for your best friend or coworker. This is a big mistake! When couples get out of the habit of laughing together, their relationship is at risk of losing its joy and spirit.
- They give each other the benefit of the doubt.
When couples are stuck in a negative/critical/disconnected vortex, it’s not unusual to feel that your partner is on a completely different team that you. Remember that you’re on the same team, your intentions toward each other are always good, and that you both care about one another. Giving your partner the benefit of the doubt is a great strength in a happy relationship.
- They make intimacy a priority.
Couples in long-term relationships must commit to cultivating affection and intimacy instead of hoping it just happens. At the beginning of a relationship, most couples can’t keep their hands off each other. As time marches on, they can’t seem to keep their hands off their phones and computers. Couples who commit to prioritizing time to be together, to show affection, and to keep learning and growing around sex, are definitely the happiest!
- They disagree at times, but they fight fair.
If partners don’t disagree now and then, they’re either not being honest or aren’t human. Disagreeing isn’t a marriage problem ― it’s normal. It’s how couples work through their differences (or rather don’t) that can become bad for their marriage. Disagreements are opportunities to practice conflict resolution and build communication skills.
Assess your arguments and see what bad habits each partner has when you disagree. Do you talk over each other? Get angry? Yell? Swear? Name call? Disengage? Each partner should make a list of their bad tendencies and use future disagreements to practice responding differently and building better communication skills.
- They discuss their finances.
Fighting over money is one of the top reasons for divorce. Unfortunately, most couples avoid talking about money until they have money problems so big they can no longer be ignored. Forcing yourselves to talk about money before there’s a big problem is one of the smartest things you can do to ensure your relationship will be happy and long-lasting.
- They go on romantic dates, and change it up often.
Keep going back to the same Italian restaurant every Thursday night? Behavior experts say you’re going about it all wrong. While studies show that romance naturally declines over the years (sigh), simply spending time together isn’t enough to counter it. They key? Happy couples constantly change their routines. New experiences activate the brain’s reward system and mimic the feeling of early romantic love (cue butterflies).
Looking to change up your date-night plans? Find an activity that reminds you of the start of your relationship. Go through the paper and find a museum or new event that draws on both your interests. Focus on the adventure, and talk about it in the days leading up to the date, rather than “Okay, it’s Friday. We should do something.”
- They don’t expect their partner to read their mind; they ask for what they need.
The happiest couples make it a habit to ask for what they need, and listen to each other’s needs (without being resentful). Running around hoping another person will know what you need or that you’re supposed to know exactly what they need is a recipe for disaster. The happiest couples are delighted to openly talk about needs and honor differences in needs without feeling like anyone should’ve already known or that their soulmate will have the same needs as them.
- They turn toward their partner’s bids for connections.
Time is the enemy for busy couples. But time spent in positive interactions with your spouse is non-negotiable. As Dr. John Gottman writes, “a husband and wife are continually making bids for each other’s attention—introducing a conversation topic, implicitly asking a favor, etc.—and the most successful couples are the ones who continually ‘turn toward’ their partners.” They say yes to each other’s requests for attention, interaction, and well, love, I suppose. These everyday interactions serve to build up a bank of love and trust, Dr. Gottman says.