Any relationship, no matter what type, takes time and effort to make work. And this applies especially to couple relationships, which often suffer from being “swallowed up” by daily problems, busy schedules, or prioritizing children.
A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that the person we choose is not nearly as important as the relationship we build. It turns out that having a happy relationship is less about finding the perfect partner or changing your current partner, and more about building that relationship itself – creating the conditions that will allow the relationship to flourish, experts say.
Here’s what you can do to have a happy relationship!
Include small habits in your daily schedule
We know you’ll never have time each week to go out for a romantic dinner. But how about 5 minutes for coffee every morning? Or 10 minutes before bedtime, when all has gone quiet in the house?
The important thing is that in these moments of quiet and reunion, you talk about yourself, about the things you like, about future plans, laugh, and joke. Don’t use these moments to solve family problems, or to calculate the family budget, as they can quickly escalate into conflict.
Look at these little windows as your special moments, when you can enter a “bubble” or a parallel universe, where only you and your relationship exist. You’ve loved each other for years, don’t forget that for a moment!
Fights are normal and constructive
Obviously, if they don’t happen every day, they don’t become violent and end with one of you leaving home. But the idea of a couple that never fights will never be achieved by anyone, believe us. You are two different people, you have different opinions, and when you have to decide together, you can “clash”.
But learn how to argue intelligently. Or rather, turn arguments into debates. Learn to argue before slamming the door in each other’s faces and understand that often the truth is somewhere in between. We are all subjective and tend to feel unfair more than is appropriate.
Make a well-defined schedule for intimate relationships
When we see in movies that spouses “schedule” an hour or two every now and then for sex, we tend to laugh and think them over the top. But let’s be honest, how many times has fatigue and lack of initiative prevented us from doing so?
The daily tumult catches up with us and we realize after two or three months that we haven’t met our partner in the bedroom at all, in that intimate way that used to bring us closer together. Sex is an important building block in the structure of a couple, as it is also one of our primary needs. It also “ticks off” the need to feel loved, appreciated, caressed, and admired.
So, don’t let the time go by and schedule this time for yourself. The first few times will seem awkward, but you will find that after a while you will look forward to these moments. Don’t forget to get ready with new underwear, an exciting perfume or a new hairstyle.
Respect your partner’s personal time
Sometimes it’s easier for us to ask for personal time, which we devote only to ourselves than to allocate time to the person we love. Our ego understands the importance of personal space when we need it, but what happens when our partner needs a little space?
The important thing is to find a balance in this whole equation, because sometimes your partner may need to spend some time alone, and at the same time you may feel that you need more attention and privacy from him. Remember: always do your best to give your partner space when he or she really needs it. And if you know or sense when he or she wants to spend time alone, all the better.
Turn off your smartphone at the table
If you’re “glued” to your cell phone during dinner, then it’s time to disconnect from your online environment. A study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior analyzed data from 1,160 married people and found that there is a negative link between long time spent on social media (i.e. social networking) and relationship happiness. While it doesn’t hurt anyone to send a love message, a romantic message, or flirt with your partner online, you’ll get more results and feedback if you’re more direct with your partner, especially when it’s about a really important topic.
Go to bed at the same time
Feel like you never have a free moment to spend together? If you go to bed at the same time, this will help. The time you go to bed might be the only time you are alone, relative to the whole day. Even if you’re a “night owl”, you can, of course, stay in bed until your partner falls asleep.
Make a cup of coffee for your partner
Grand gestures aren’t the only way to express your love. Even something as simple as making your partner a cup of coffee in the morning helps improve the relationship, say experts. For example, 373 couples have been studied for more than 28 years by researchers at the University of Michigan Survey Research Center. Extensive research has shown that the frequency of small gestures of kindness is an indicator of happiness in a relationship.
Hold your partner’s hand as often as possible
Find as many opportunities as possible to hold hands with your partner: either while sitting at the table eating breakfast or watching your favorite movie on TV. Then spend a few minutes talking about something in your life that is causing you stress and anxiety. Maybe it’s a problem at work, a problem with your children, or a financial worry. Whatever it is, hold your partner’s hand while you talk about it.
According to researchers, touch is a powerful way to build your connection with someone and that hand-holding reduces stress. A neuroscientist at the University of Virginia recruited 16 married women to participate in a study about how hand-holding affects the brain. To simulate stress, he subjected each woman to a mild electric shock while the woman was in three scenarios: alone, holding a stranger’s hand, and holding her husband’s hand.
Brain scans showed that the stress of being shocked was lower when the woman was holding someone’s hand. But when the woman was holding her husband’s hand, the calming effect was even greater and was similar to the effect of a pain relief drug.
Why does holding hands make a difference in a relationship? Experts have concluded that a stable partnership gives the brain the opportunity to outsource some of the most difficult neural work. This basically means that when partners hold our hands, they also carry some of our emotional burdens.
Share what the perfect day would look like for you
Imagine what the perfect day would look like and share it with your partner at the dinner table. Give as much detail as you can so that you provide information about your likes, dislikes, hopes, and dreams. The reason questions bring people closer together is that they force people to reveal something about themselves. Talking about your perfect day is a form of self-disclosure and can help you create a deeper connection with your partner.
Practice gratitude together
Write down three things about your partner that you feel grateful for. Then read what you’ve written about each other. Are you surprised by your partner’s feelings? Talk about these moments of gratitude and how they help you be more connected to each other.
Showing gratitude every day is a common mindfulness practice that boosts happiness, helps us sleep better, and even reduces illness. Gratitude exercises can also make us feel closer to our romantic partners, strengthen our friendships and even make us better colleagues at work.
Grateful couples are more content in their relationships, and feelings of gratitude may even predict whether couples stay together or break up. One study called gratitude “a strengthening dose” for romantic relationships. Experts conclude that the more you practice gratitude towards your partner, the more connected you will feel.