If you and your partner choose to make your relationship a life-long love affair, aim for happy and you’ll become happier people in general. It only makes sense because being happy and fulfilled in your closest relationship will spill into every aspect of your life.
Happiness requires the sense that your partner is there for you; supportive and engaged. When you feel supported you’re less stressed and there’s a lot more emotional space for creating a happy environment. It’s not a secret anymore. Creating and maintaining a satisfying relationship is simple but not easy. You might want to start with a few of the little habits happy couples do (almost) every day.
Consider these seven simple steps close couples take to keep their bonds strong and help them stay together for years to come.
1. Show physical affection — Touch is loaded with emotional messages and meaning and everyone’s idea of closeness is different. Talk with your partner about what they’d like most and be sure to speak up for yourself too. Warm hugs when you get home or at the end of the day can be comforting and soothing. Holding hands provides powerful skin-to skin contact and says I’m here for you. Daily physical affection is a great way to stay connected and maintain intimacy in your relationship.
2. Say “I love you” — Couples who go the long haul make it a practice to communicate their affection and appreciation to one another every day. A simple “I love you” verbalizes your commitment to one another and reinforces your bond. It never gets old hearing that you’re loved or communicating your love in return. So, don’t write this idea off as monotonous. Make it a habit.
3. Laugh together — Life throws all kinds of curveballs at us, and couples who stay connected learn how to laugh through whatever comes. Find the funny in your circumstances and crack up together — it’s good for you both.
4. Set boundaries and cut out distractions — Whether you both come home drained at the end of a work day or you’re together all day and constantly on your computers, make it a point to regularly set aside time to focus on each other. Putting your phones and notebooks down at night and taking time with each other can encourage deeper intimacy and a stronger bond. When you go to sleep, try leaving your phones and other electronic devices outside the bedroom. Start by setting up a charging station in the hall or foyer where you can park your devices for the night. Watch what happens.
5. Communicate — Even when the pressures of life bear down hard upon you, it’s super important to maintain good communication. If you have news, concerns, a question or a story to share, talk to your partner. When your significant other has helped you or has done something worth noticing, be sure to acknowledge and say “thank you.” When there’s conflict between you, stay engaged. Don’t blame. And, don’t sweep it under the rug. Find a way to talk about what’s happening and let your partner know you care. When we share in a clear, caring, non-threatening way other people can hear us. Partners who are committed and responsive to each other make communication a priority. It doesn’t have to be perfect. You just have to stay present.
6. Do stuff together — Whether it’s cooking or sports, common interests can bring you together and strengthen your bond. What do you and your partner enjoy most? You can support each other’s separate passions, and find common ground too. Make an effort to cultivate your interests and become involved in your significant other’s activities too. Shared experiences make life more interesting and are key to a healthy relationship.
7. Forgive — Unfortunately if you love someone, you’re going to get hurt. Stay with anyone long enough, and your feelings will be hurt more than once! Happy couples learn how to cultivate and offer sincere apologies and forgive each other. There’s no sense in keeping score or holding a grudge. It never works out well. Talk about your hurt instead – in ways your partner can understand. Every strong relationship requires forgiveness to succeed.
When it comes to growing and nurturing your relationship, the secret to staying together is in the emotional bond you share and those small, everyday choices you make. It may seem like no big deal to hug when you come home or turn off your phone during dinner, but over time, it’s huge. Consistently practicing presence, affection and thoughtfulness builds deeper connection and tighter bonds — which can help you withstand whatever challenges life has in store. So start now, and build the foundation for a lifetime of love.
Author bio: B. Anne Hancock, PsyD, is a prominent relationship therapist and founder of Wellness Counseling Center. A licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Hancock specializes in working with couples and families. She has a doctorate in Psychology and a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. Hancock always works from a wellness-oriented, non-pathologizing point of view — which means no blame, no shame. In addition to couples counseling services, Hancock also conducts personalized two-and-a-half-day couples intensives.