An unhappy relationship can wreak havoc on your emotions and health. In fact, a ten-year study has shown that stressful relationships are a causal factor in depression.
We are all social creatures. When we carry negative emotions - every single day - toward the people in our lives, it destroys us.
It's important to get this area of life right. In fact, it is among the most important things you can do.
Whenever you want to do something well, it is always more effective to learn from someone who is already succeeding at what you want to do.
In this spirit, I've researched the patterns of behavior among happy couples. I've consulted some of the best online resources. I've drawn upon my own experience over 25 years of coaching and 10 years of successful friendship with my wife, Hope.
I also included Jake and Hannah Eagle, co-developers of the most insanely useful romantic relationships program online. So, please enjoy the six things happy couples do differently.
1. Happy couples keep the surprise alive
If you don't satisfy your need for variety in life, then you will most definitely get BORED. Boredom in relationships is DEADLY.
How do you keep things interesting with someone you've known for years? Surprise them.
Shock your partner with something thoughtful - and it doesn't have to be expensive. And make it about him or her. So, don't buy yourself a new car to surprise your spouse.
• Say I love you out of the blue.
• Surprise gifts and inexpensive outings.
• Do the other's chores around the house while she is away.
• Volunteering a massage.
It's the little things! Keep the other person guessing about what you'll do next. Each pleasant surprise adds a spice to recipe in your relationship. And don't do the same "nice" thing every Tuesday. You can't schedule surprise.
If you neglect this one, the surprise you get one day might not be pleasant.
2. Get physical - all the time
Not just sex.
Happy couples take time to feel each other's body all the time. Longer hugs. Kissing so you actually feel the impression of lips gives the extra ounce of connection that bonds two people together.
The experts at HelpGuide state that the number one relationship priority is: Connect.
Connecting physically boosts oxytocin, the hormone that governs human bonding. According to at least one survey reported by the Guardian, couples were happiest when they slept in the nude together.
3. Happy couples learn world-class communication skills (amazingly easy to learn)
A whole new level of sophisticated communication skills is NOT DIFFICULT to learn and apply. For example, in NLP we know that a majority of communication happens through three of the five senses.
We communicate in pictures, sounds and feelings. Most people have a preference for one of these modes of communication.
Love is a form of communication.
Therefore, it is best sent in the way your partner prefers to receive it. So simple!
Visual lovers like visual evidence of love (things they can see): gifts, dressing up nice and going out, a clean kitchen, seeing you do something for them.
Auditory lovers like to hear kind, loving expressions (and in a kind, loving tone).
Feeling oriented lovers like to touch: Hugs, closeness, holding hands, kissing, etc...
Communicating love outside your partner's modality may not even count (for your partner). If you are a visual lover, for example, a hug doesn't mean as much as seeing evidence. In fact, you may feel smothered by constant clinging.
Custom package your love for your partner. If you don't know your partner's preference, ask!
4. When problems occurs, they are willing to own up
Healthy couples are great at holding each other accountable. This is possible for one important reason: Each person also holds SELF accountable first.
Try holding an equal partner accountable consistently while never taking responsibility for yourself. This sad strategy only leads to mutual resentment and defensiveness.
If you want the right to hold someone else accountable, then be willing to expect the same of yourself. The respect you deserve comes from this place of personal maturity.
5. Gentleness: the missing link in most relationships
The art of gentleness can transform your relationship. In fact, the Gottman Institute, a leader in marriage research, claims that being gentle is the number one factor in determining the success of your relationship.
Are you gentle with your spouse, even when you disagree. Even when he lets you down? If not, rest assured you are adding to the hurt and resentment. Hurt and resentment do not simply vanish without reconciliation. One day, resentment will rear its ugly head.
Interestingly, many of us confuse gentleness with indulgence. We think that if we are kind, we have to put up with rudeness, mistreatment, laziness, etc...Not true. You can be gentle and still require respect, hold people accountable and deliver consequences.
In fact, being gentle is a far more effective way of demanding respect.
6. Happy understand that friendship is more important than family
Good marriage, for example, is friendship BEFORE it is family. Why?
Because, on average, people enjoy friends more than family.
The evidence for this is pretty impressive. A survey done via the Mappiness App collected more than 3 million responses in its real time happiness survey. Results clearly showed that participants were far happier when in the company of friends than with family.
Friends even made people happier than spouses and didn't even compare to "other family."
Among families of origin, people are often used to contradicting each other, being annoyed, rolling their eyes, bickering, sneaking around and feeling oppressed. It's the truth. Families are often cauldrons of misery.
Your primary relationship or marriage does not have to be like this if you are friends first.
Good friends are less likely to treat each other with disrespect. If you are friends, you are more likely to respect boundaries.The fatal mistake so many couples make is diving into a young relationship too deeply, too quickly.
When you do this, you bypass the opportunity to form a friendship and instantly create another family member. For more on the essential stages of romantic relationships, click here.
What are you committed to: happiness or misery?
The sad truth is that your subconscious mind is not as committed to your happiness as you are. It may be harboring reasons - known as psychological attachments - for clinging to familiar misery.
To implement the principles above, you may need to discover and root out your tendencies toward self-sabotage. This removes the subconscious tendency to accept what is painfully familiar.
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Mike Bundrant is the author of Your Achilles Eel: Discover and Overcome the Hidden Source of Negativity, Bad Decisions and Self-Sabotage. Click here to learn more.