Here’s the movie (or romance novel) version of what happy couples do: they always laugh at each other’s jokes, they cook dinner together, they fly off to romantic getaways at a moment’s notice and they have lots and lots of great sex (by the way, they never change diapers or do laundry).
The real-life version looks a lot different but actually creates stronger, richer, healthier marriages in the long run. Sure, the initial fireworks when you first fall in love are spectacular, but that’s not what keeps love strong and marriages happy for years and years. Real-life happy couples do 10 things to keep their love going strong.
1. Let Love Build
If you believe that the heart-pounding rapture of a new relationship is what long-term love is like, you’re in for a big surprise. Couples who start out thinking the fiery intensity of new romance will last forever lose 50% of their passion for each other after just 18 months, according to most researchers. Whereas the couples who grow happier over time are the ones who understand that love evolves, becoming calmer, deeper, richer and more powerful. Allowing love to change, lets it grow.
2. Play Nice
The happiest couples do something other couples often don’t – they’re kind to each other. It’s not about nightly back rubs or offers to do the dishes or other chores (although those never hurt!), rather, happy partners have the understanding that they will not get mean or nasty with each other, even during arguments. They are nice to each other no matter what – this is what creates a feeling of emotional safety, ongoing trust and loving feelings.
3. Do This in Bed
Do you know what the number one thing happy couples do in bed? Nope, not that (although that is certainly important, too)! It’s talking. Spending a few minutes chatting every night before you sleep lets you catch up with each other, make plans and discuss problems in a quiet, tender setting.
4. Double Date
Dinners for two are cozy, but dinners for four are just as important in a relationship. Research shows bonding with other couples actually strengthens your own relationship. Having open, intimate conversations with other twosomes reinforces your own state of togetherness. Being close to them makes you feel closer to each other!
5. Face Your Differences
We all have our differences and the more you have, the greater this may seem a threat to your relationship. But it’s how you handle them that really matters. Happy couples bring their differences out into the open rather than denying or dismissing them. Put issues on the table and look for ways you can work around them. This process of solution-oriented examination will diminish the threat considerably.
6. Skip some of the Small Talk
Couples who have deep conversations – they talk about their dreams, their fears, their future, their relationship, etc., (especially as these things change and grow all the time!) are far likelier to be happy than couples who always keep things light and superficial. This doesn’t mean every conversation has to be heavy, but research shows that the happiest couples have twice as many substantive discussions, and far fewer superficial ones (“How was your day honey?” “Fine.”), as the unhappiest couples.
7. Be Equally Committed
If you’re both pretty lazy when it comes to working out your problems, you can be just as happy as partners who put in a lot of effort. In a surprising 2011 study in Psychological Science, research showed that what matters is that you both feel that you devote the same amount of care and effort – a lot or a little – to keeping your relationship strong. Happiness doesn’t depend on how intense your level of commitment is, but on how mutual it is.
8. Soften Up
It’s impossible to avoid arguments entirely. The fact is they happen – sometimes frequently. But the happiest couples keep conflicts from becoming confrontations. They soften their approach when bringing up tough issues. Neither feels as if one of them always gets his or her way. Each occasionally yields to the other.
9. Accentuate the Positive
Happy couples make at least five times as many positive statement to and about each other every day as negative ones, even when they’re arguing. While it might not always be easy to be nice when you’re disagreeing, it is important to solidify the bond between you.
10. Hang in There
Up to 80% of those who are most committed to marriage contemplate divorce at some time during the marriage! Slogging through the bad times can make both of you happier than ever. Once you get to the other side, it not only helps you grow as a person and a partner, it also makes the relationship stronger and strengthens your love for each other. So hang in there!
Want to know more about how to be happier?…
Do you and your spouse have other techniques that make you a happy couple and have a happy marriage? Please comment below.
Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders, StrongMarriageNow.com