How Happy Couples Make Happy People, And Not The Other Way Around

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From early on, we've been taught, "Happy people make happy couples."

The common wisdom regarding the development of a happy relationship is that you need to be happy as an individual to begin with, and that it's necessary to work on your own happiness first if you want to have a successful relationship.

We've worked with hundreds of couples over the years as marriage therapists and have found that, actually, the opposite is true.

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Happy couples create happy people.

It's not just the proverb, "Happy wife, happy life" or, as we now say, "Happy spouse, happy house." Rather, being a powerful and content couple empowers us to be happy together and as individuals.

Everyone wants to have a happy relationship, but you also want to be happy "in" your relationship. What makes the difference is not "working on yourself." Rather, you need to take on working on your relationship and your part in it. 

Where do happy couples begin?

The first step is to imagine what your ideal relationship could look like. If your destination is a happy couple in a loving relationship, what does it look like?

First and foremost, it looks like two people who work effectively as a unit rather than focusing on themselves as individuals.

You will find, in fact, that it may be much easier and less threatening to look at your relationship and create a vision for it than to keep analyzing yourself. 

The happy couple: the ultimate team.

When creating a vision for the relationship, it will help to think of working together as a team. Good teamwork requires having a joint vision that the team members are jointly committed to.

You can create that vision by taking on each other’s goals as your own as well as having a team goal.

A team can win the World Series and also stand to have the best pitcher and the MVP of the leagues as well. Sometimes, these goals empower one another.

So you can decide to be happy together and happy in achieving your own goals at the same time. 

Our friends Don and Marly described themselves as "happy but not really joyful."

They continuously struggled with Marly being overweight. Marly knew that Don was supportive, but she felt that he was more critical than helpful. This went on for years until they took it on as a couple.

We suggested that they talk about it together to see what they could come up with as a team. They came up with the idea to attend a weight control program together. They asked to be weighed in each week and given their weight only as a couple, not individually.

They worked to lose weight as a team, and guess what? Marly lost weight. And the couple regained the joy and romance they used to have. 

Another couple, Pam and Paulo, took on Pam’s painting together. Her art teacher encouraged her to exhibit her paintings, but that seemed overwhelming to her.

Then Pam and Paulo took on creating an exhibit together. She did the painting, and he did the framing. Together they accomplished her goals, and he could enjoy being part of her success and part of their team.

These projects that the couple took on together made them content and fulfilled as individuals, too.

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Happy couples develop great team chemistry. 

It was really a win/win situation. Like many teams who work well together, happy couples can experience an intangible element at work — what's often called "team chemistry" or "team spirit."

When you take on a project as a team, you may find that you experience a powerful sense of cooperation, a sense of being proud to have worked together to do something special.

Cooperation allows you and your partner to pool your resources and capitalize on your strengths. It also enhances your capacity to trust each other and encourages you to persevere and produce results.

Individuals in the couple, like Pam, often feel an enhanced sense of confidence in their ability to accomplish something they didn’t think they could do. 

The power of language in happy couples. 

It's said that language is not a description of reality, but rather the creation of reality. You cannot communicate how the world is for us until you have words to paint the picture of what you're experiencing.

Often, that picture is painted in the words you use.

If you see the world through the eyes of your couple — the "we" of it — you're more likely to see it as a team might see it. If your language is based on "I," then you'll be looking from your personal and individual worlds.

Happy couples have a language of "we."

"How do we feel about things?"

"How does this affect us?"

"If we're happy, then I can be happy."

Happy couples say "What can 'we' do?"

You can take on almost anything together, even if you've done it by yourself before. Working as a team, you may find that the task becomes much easier and more successful.

Like Marly’s weight loss, you may find that what seemed so difficult and even impossible before, now becomes easier and even enjoyable with your partner. 

Look into your own life and pinpoint areas where you've been operating on your own that might benefit from working together with your partner as a team.

Even though some activities may be difficult or boring, doing them together can become a powerful and enjoyable experience.

You'll see then how your happy couple is making you a very happy individual. 

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Phyllis Koch-Sheras and Peter Sheras are clinical psychologists who've helped numerous couples become happy couples and happy people. They're the authors of 'Lifelong Love,' the guidebook for creating more happiness as a couple.