10 Habits of Happy Couples

7 min
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There is something to be said about the honeymoon phase of a relationship. It happens once, and once only ー that special time when you simply cannot get enough of each other, when the future looks bright and anything feels possible, as long as you are together. But what happens when the novelty wears off and you exit the honeymoon phase to settle into more of a routine? Will time eventually dull your relationship enough to lead to its demise? 

One thing is for sure: ask almost any couple how they remain happy in their relationship, and they will all tell you that it takes work. As with most things that are worth having, a relationship does need some basic ingredients to flourish and last.

Schedule time for each other

Remember when you felt like a unit and wanted to do everything together? Spontaneously, you would decide to go hiking, shopping, traveling, to the movies, or out for some food and drinks. Yet this wild rhythm is impossible to maintain in the long term. Between careers, children, household chores, and other the logistical needs of daily life, it's easy to nix time together, or to make time with your partner feel more functional and less special. If those once-special days of quality time have turned into evenings spent on the sofa falling asleep in front of the television, it may be time for a wake-up call. Not that there's anything wrong with chilling out in the evenings watching a movie or your favorite series ー but as the saying goes, sometimes, too much of a good thing can also sour.

Research shows that couples who carve out time to spend with each other on a regular basis are happier and fight less ー so make a plan to get glammed up one evening and test out a new restaurant, book a couples massage, go for a hike or a cycle together, or book a romantic weekend or staycation away from home. You could even sign up for a fun activity that’s new to you both, such as a painting, cooking, or pottery class for instance.

But don't forget yourself

One sometimes surprising factor in keeping your relationship from going bust is remembering to spend some quality time with yourself, too. After all, while it may sometimes take two to make a thing go right, you are still the most important person in your life. In the right circumstances ー provided it is still temporary, as opposed to an eternal absenceabsence can make the heart grow fonder. Time apart, on occasion, can help you cherish and appreciate moments together even more. Not only should you not feel guilty about taking some time to focus on yourself every once in a while, making sure you get enough me-time could actually help to make your relationship stronger. This is time in which you can recharge and recalibrate yourself without any of the pressures, expectations, or desires of another person, and reconnect with what is important to you and only you ー after which you can come back to your partner from a more wholesome place, mentally and energetically. If you feel balanced and fulfilled as an individual, it will be easier to inject some of that happiness into your relationship. That me-time can look like a night out with your friends or going to visit your family solo, taking a spa day, going out to a movie or a museum on your own, engaging in a new hobby or academic pursuit that’s just yours, going for a solitary run or long walk, or even indulging in your favorite TV shows with an audience of one. It can be whatever it is that makes you happy, that you can enjoy wholly and unaccompanied. 

Communicate, communicate, communicate

If you have something to say, don't bottle it in; just say it! Allowing unspoken feelings to fester is only going to cause resentment and bitterness, and once you have had your fill, you may just explode and regret some of the things you say in the heat of the moment. There should be room in your relationship to have conversations about difficult subjects. However, it’s important to express these feelings as calmly as possible, making sure that you are not attacking your partner, and speaking with consideration. One great way to communicate these feelings more effectively is to use “I” language over “you” language ー that is to say, talk about how you feel, rather than what your partner is doing that has upset you. It should be treated as an opportunity for discourse, rather than accusation, where both parties are able to communicate their feelings in a clear and compassionate way. 

That being said, don't just speak up when there is something negative to say: be positive too! Encourage your partner to sign up for that event they have been wanting to do, be their cheerleader, and tell them you're proud of them. When they achieve a goal, congratulate them on having done what they set out to do. Even if words of affirmation, physical touch, or acts of service are not their primary love languages, show ー and tell ー your partner that you love them just as much as you did yesterday and the day before. Yes, they probably already know you love them ー but don't underestimate the power of hearing the words.

Get busy in the bedroom

How can you keep the spark of romance alive when your bedroom is synonymous with sleep only? Being intimate with your partner is one of the cornerstones of a healthy, happy relationship ー and a large part of that is physical intimacy. A 2017 study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin showed there’s a connection between frequent sexual activity and overall well-being. But sex is not the only way to be physically intimate: you can also connect with your partner in other ways that involve touch, be that a massage, holding hands, or cuddling for example. Physical touch can have a powerful effect on the nervous system, and it can help boost our relationships and moods by stimulating the production of happy hormones such as oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine. However, there are other ways to build more intimacy that can complement touch: experiential intimacy, for instance, involves sharing new adventures together whether that is cooking, sharing music, trying a new hobby, or traveling together. Active listening, and being vulnerable with one another, is another way to foster the closeness that builds intimacy.

Stay connected

Some couples hardly talk at all throughout the day, and that may be just fine for them. But in today's world, staying connected has never been easier. Avoid mundane topics such as which fruit to choose at the supermarket: rather, check in with your partner on how their day is going, forward them an interesting article you read, or share a funny meme. It can be something simple and unique to your relationship, as long as it's something that tells them they were on your mind at some point in the day.

Be willing to work through your issues

Happy couples don't throw in the towel every time they argue. Yes, some issues are so serious that the relationship may need to be re-assessed ー particularly those that involve a fundamental difference in values, belief systems, or life goals that are simply not compatible. But short of that, couples who stay together are couples who are willing to work through any issues that arise. Sometimes a sincere “I'm sorry” does the trick; other times, both parties may need time apart to work out how they feel about a certain situation. And sometimes, you will simply have to agree to disagree. Regardless, addressing issues head on ー and then moving on ー rather than sweeping them under the carpet is one of the keys to the longevity of any relationship. 

Synch your bedtime routine

Maybe it was not that long ago that you could hardly wait for that time of the day: when you would both wind down for the day and go to bed together. Yet many couples report that over time, they no longer go to bed at the same time, preferring to follow their own routine. However, for many of us, bedtime is a key time to reset: to reflect on the day, practice mindfulness, and enjoy a moment of quiet before restoring yourself for the next one. This time can be used to help sustain more intimacy with your partner: you can chat about the events of the day, or simply enjoy some time together without speaking, perhaps preferring to snuggle up, get intimate, or relax.

Have a sense of humor

A sense of humor is a very attractive quality in a human being. In fact, plenty of people fall for someone because they make them laugh, or because they don't take themselves too seriously. Keeping things light when it is possible or appropriate can help a couple navigate the turbulence of daily life. It's also a stress-buster. Having inside jokes with one another also strengthens a couple's emotional connection, and can make joint activities ー including physical intimacy ー a more memorable experience. Laughter can truly be the best medicine.

Hug it out

Can you think of anything that's better than a hug? We often hug the ones we love, and for good reason: Research shows that when you hug someone you can help release oxytocin, a hormone that reinforces bonding and is often referred to as the love hormone. Hugs don’t just have a psychological effect on us: they can also have a physical one, helping to reduce the amount of cortisol in the body, calm the nervous system, boost heart health, decrease our pain and fears, and ultimately make us happier.  

Keep your private life private

There will be plenty of times when you don't see eye-to-eye with your partner. When this happens, be careful who you vent to. While there is nothing wrong with sharing private matters with a close friend who you can trust to stay discreet, airing out your laundry in public or to too many people can erode the trust you have for one another. Once lost, that trust is difficult to earn back. Venting excessively and carelessly can also skew your perspective, whether that’s due to your own emotional reactivity or unhelpful advice from friends who simply do not have the whole picture (as would anyone not actually in the relationship), not to mention potentially feed your more negative emotions, thereby keeping you in a needless cycle of feeling more frustrated or angry with your partner. Not keeping your private life on the down-low can also lead to people judging your partner without having all of the facts, and in some cases to gossip, which just is not fair.

Although the fairy tales and epic love stories we are told throughout our lives may seem like love should be “as easy as leaves falling off a tree”, the truth is that real relationships ー  lasting, sustainable, grown-up relationships built on a foundation of mutual trust and respect  ー take work. Understanding and accepting that it should never be someone else’s responsibility to make you happy, but rather, that we should strive to be happy on our own and find a partner who complements us, nurtures us, and helps to bring out the best in us, is a great place to start. Navigating our way through the ups and downs of a relationship may not always be easy, but if we can learn how to do so with grace, consideration, and love, they can challenge us to grow for the better ourselves, be extremely rewarding, and absolutely worth it.

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All of the content on our website is thoroughly researched to ensure that the information shared is evidence-based. For more information, please visit the academic journals and other resources that influenced this article: What Makes A Good Life? Lessons From The Longest Study On Happiness; Relationships And Happiness: Key Discoveries; The Science Behind Happy Relationships; Gottman Method Couple Therapy; Marital Virtues And Their Relationship To Individual Functioning, Communication, And Relationship Adjustment; The Impact Of Perfectionism In Couple Conflict And Relationship Satisfaction; Repair During Marital Conflict In Newlyweds: How Couples Move From Attack–Defend To Collaboration; Love: How The Feeling Of Power Determines Happy Relationships; The Honeymoon Effect: Does It Exist And Can It Be Predicted?; Time for Each Other: Work and Family Constraints Among Couples; It's About Time: Examining the Role of Time Together and Perceived Stress in Couple Relationships.

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