7 Unsexy Things Crazy-Happy Couples Do In Order To Stay In Love

Photo: Halay Alex / Shutterstock
couples hugging

If you truly want the best relationship possible, don't leave the fate of your "happily in love" connection to luck or chance. Trust me, couples who stay in love for the long term actively choose behaviors that keep them in a good place with each other.

As a marriage therapist who has been happily married and counseling for 40 years, there are some insights I can share to help couples stay together, and happy.

RELATED: 18 Relationship Tips From The Happiest Couples On Earth

Here are 7 unsexy habits I see ridiculously happy couples practice faithfully:

1. Spend time together

It is staggering how many couples come to my office having not spent a single meaningful moment together since their last session. I know, I know — Kids and jobs quickly derail your chances of alone time. But come on! You can't connect if you never spend time together. It's the most obvious and basic step of keeping love alive.

So get with it, pull out your calendars, set a date to spend some time together, and then honor it. Create a space (sans kids) where you can breathe together — that is when meaningful connections and conversations occur.

RELATED: 9 Signs You're A Truly Happy Couple

2. Know your partner's love language

This one is so important. Just because your mom sang your praises for cleaning up your room doesn't mean your partner is as impressed by the act. We each value different loving behaviors and gestures in our relationship. Often, couples have completely different love languages.

If you don't know what your partner's is, ask. Your honey has probably tried to share theirs, but you may have missed it. So, find out today.

Just ask, "What things have I done that make you feel the most loved?" Perhaps it will be the time you surprised her by cooking dinner. Perhaps his will be just touching him affectionately. Or that time you threw him that surprise birthday party.

Unsure of what the different love languages are? Make a date to flip through The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Last by Gary Chapman together. Discovering your partner's love language makes showing appreciation and affection truly fun again.

RELATED: 9 Game-Changing Relationship Rules The Happiest Couples Follow

3. Commit to 20-second hugs twice a day

I'm not talking about a polite, A-shaped hug. I mean a hip-to-hip, really holding each other bear hug. Why must it last 20 seconds? Because that's how long it takes for your oxytocin to kick in (otherwise known as "the cuddle hormone"), which gives you that delightful feeling that all is right with the world (and your relationship).

I regularly "prescribe" 20-second hugs to my patients because the gesture is powerful medicine, as explained in this Harvard Health report. So, every morning before you leave for work and then again when you get home, spend 20 full seconds in an embrace. I guarantee you, one or both of you will quickly slip into your happy place.

But remember, because it works so well and feels so good, if you skip this ritual too often, your partner will soon feel uncared for. So, commit to it and enjoy it!

RELATED: 20 Questions To Ask Your Guy (When You Really Want To Know Everything)

4. Learn to listen (without interrupting)

Nothing says "I love you" more than really listening when your partner speaks. About their thoughts. About their feelings. Even about that big meeting with their boss and their stressful, busy day.

Authentic listening is a skill most people struggle with, however. It means shutting off your screens, dialing down your own thoughts, making eye contact, nodding your head in an appreciative way — you know, actually caring and being present.

Supportive grunts and high-fives are also appropriate. Bonus points for touching your partner's arm at appropriate moments to show you're genuinely paying attention.

Giving your partner the floor without needing to put in your own two cents (or stealing the spotlight) shows that their thoughts and feelings are as important to you as your own. Just make sure to mirror back what your partner says (without editorial comments, of course).

Don't tell them what to do, simply reflect on what you heard them say and your understanding of how it impacted them.

RELATED: How Active Listening Actually Improves Your Relationship

5. Keep each other in the loop

How can you know when to celebrate or commiserate with your partner if they don't keep you informed about what's going on in their life?

If your partner believes their entire work future depends on keeping this current client happy, you can suggest dinner out to toast occasions when those happy client moments occur. Or when your partner shares that they're working through tension in a valued friendship, you can smile and show support when they report that speedbump was successfully smoothed over.

We all want and need to come home to someone who carries us in their mind as we face the challenges and joys of our day. Knowing that your partner cares about your life outside of just your relationship together makes feel protected, cheered for, and like our place on Earth matters.

RELATED: What Happens To Couples Who Keep Even Tiny Secrets From Each Other

6. Actually plan your future together (on an actual calendar)

Most of the stuff that matters in relationships won't happen unless it's on the calendar. This includes sex, getting together with friends, and making time to see each other.

Making time every month to set goals together will increase your sense that you're on the same journey together, planning a meaningful future that you both prioritize and value.

Remember, you're on a team, so pull together, whether it's around the children, your individual career goals, your sex life, or just figuring out what you want to do this weekend.

RELATED: The Relationship Advice That Will Probably Save Your Marriage 

7. Reassure each other often

Everyone needs reassurance from time to time. Don't wait until one of you needs it to give it. Frequently affirming how much you care keeps the other person relaxed and feeling safe in your relationship.

Sometimes an out-of-nowhere, heartfelt "I love you" instantly makes up for all of those moments when you didn't understand each other.

And nothing keeps us feeling secure in our relationships like hearing all of the ways our partner appreciates us. It's hard to slip into insecurity about their love when they've just mentioned two reasons why they're so glad you're in their life.  

Human beings survive across the ages because our brains evolved with a negativity bias — remaining ever alert to what's possibly wrong. Our brains feed us flashes of every potential danger which often means we're imagining some of them. When you see your partner panic and "make up" a problem, rather than get mad or defensive, reach out to them calmly. They just need some reassurance to quiet that primal part of their brain down again. 

The common thread of the seven habits above is that they each teach happy couples to focus on what is going right in their relationship versus what is going wrong.

So celebrate what you want to see more of.

Compliment instead of criticizing. Deep down we all yearn for the feeling found in the beautiful words of Mr. Rogers: "I love you... just the way you are." 

Challenge yourself to let go of criticism, and invite your partner to rest in the happiness of being loved for exactly that.

RELATED: How The Happiest Couples Keep Their Marriage Running Smoothly

Jim Walkup is a marriage, pre-marital, and infidelity recovery counselor and a partner to his wife for more than 40 years. He helps couples build their relationship to last a lifetime and is the author of the eBook A Marriage Counselor’s Secrets To Making Your Marriage Sizzle.