Recently, I attended a seminar; “The Science of a Great Relationship” at the Greater Good Science Center led by Sociologist, Dr Christine Carter and Stanford Forgiveness Project Expert, Dr Fred Luskin.
Here are some of my favourite relationship reminders and research-proven habits for happy relationships.
1) Be Each Other’s Biggest Fan
Show admiration and fondness for each other. Share good news and celebrate often. Be a cheerleader for each other and the relationship. Interestingly, the happiest couples maintain positive illusions over the years, and even exaggerate the positive qualities in each other. Being “realistic” and “pessimistic” are not nearly as helpful to relationship happiness as being “optimistic”. Go ahead and see the glass half-full rather than half-empty, especially when you are thinking about your partner.
2) Respond Positively to “Bids for Attention”
Happy couples respond to each other’s bids for attention 86% of the time. They ask each other questions, communicate understanding and respond positively when their partner reaches out to them. They say, “Yes” to each other as often as possible.
However, research has found that in unhappy relationships, couples respond to each other’s bids for attention only 30% of the time. The next time that your partner asks you to watch that silly YouTube or listen to their favourite music, just do it!
3) Prioritize Affection and Sex
Research has found that the more affection and sex that couples have, the happier they are. Good sex is close, connecting and trusting. Ideally, sex is both playful and intimate, and allows for bonding hormones to be released.
Couples who can have intimate conversations about their sexual relationship are happier in their relationships.
4) Make Time For Each Other
In our Marriage Prep 101 Workshops, we help couples prioritize and invest in their relationships.
Many of the strategies that we teach our couples are supported by research.
- Make time for reconnection by spending 30 minutes daily chatting about your days
- Show daily appreciation and gratitude for each other
- Have reunion and goodbye rituals
- Have a date night
- Make sure that you know that you really matter to each other
- Be there for each other
5) Cultivate Forgiveness
According to Dr Fred Luskin of the Stanford Forgiveness Project, there are several necessary steps to forgiveness:
- Remind yourself that we are all flawed human beings
- Decide whether the betrayal or disappointment is a deal breaker or not.
- If we stay in the relationship, we need to allow ourselves to feel our pain, hurt, disappointment and anger
- After we feel our pain and soothe ourselves, we need to be willing to widen our hearts, surrender and risk feeling pain and disappointment again.
- All of these forgiveness steps can happen even if our partner is unwilling to take any responsibility or change themselves.
Some of these steps to forgiveness are surprising, yet I personally find it empowering that we can choose whether or not we forgive…without our partners doing anything.
The Stanford Forgiveness Project emphasizes that forgiveness is essential in successful, happy relationships. When we choose to trust someone, we are vulnerable and do risk getting hurt again.
6) Help Each Other Grow
In happy relationships, couples support each other’s personal growth and development. Couples need to have a strong “Me” and a strong “We”.
When it comes to relationship happiness, we need to take responsibility for our own self-care and growth, while also supporting our partner’s self-care and growth.
Do any of these habits of happy relationships come easily for you?
What habits do you need to work on to make your relationships stronger and happier?
This article was originally posted by Michelle Gannon, PhD on Hitched.
Dr Michelle Gannon is a Psychologist, Relationship Expert and Marriage Prep 101 Founder.
She is a writer, speaker, seminar leader, media expert, individual and couples therapist.