Have you ever wondered what makes happy couples happy?
You know, the grey-haired couples you see that are smiling, holding hands, leaning in, and treating each other with such sweetness – the ones that still have that gleam in their eyes when they look at one another.
Well, I’ve discovered that there are some surprising similarities among those happy couples that have been together for decades.
These similarities aren’t secrets passed down to only the lucky few. Actually, they boil down to a few simple habits that happy couples practice day in and day out. Habits that are accessible to all of us.
That means you and your mate can be a happy couple, too, if you’re willing to develop these 7 habits:
1. Prioritize your partnership
The most important habit you must nail down to become a long-term happy couple is to always put your relationship first.
In fact, it’s not a bad idea to make “WE come first” your couple mantra.
Making a solid agreement with your partner to put your relationship first will safeguard the happiness and security of your relationship. It means your partnership is your number one priority.
Some of the ways to put your relationship first include:
- making decisions together
- always doing things that are “good for both of us, not just good for me”
- allowing your partner’s needs or wants to influence what you do
- keeping one another’s happiness at the top of your minds
- standing up for each other
- protecting one another
- always having each other’s back
- never threatening your relationship
2. Genuinely accept and celebrate your partner
If you don’t accept your partner just as they are, or if your partner doesn’t accept you just as you are, there’s going to be trouble in paradise – guaranteed.
People who feel like they must change who they are in order to be “good enough” for their mate have a nagging sense of insecurity. This causes unhappiness not only for that person feels about themselves, but also for how they feel about their relationship.
Happy couples show continued acceptance of their spouse. And they don’t expect their partner to change.
Be sure to let each other know that you love and accept one another just as you are. A simple way to do that is to whisper “you’re perfect just as you are” into your partner’s ear from time to time.
In addition to acceptance, happy couples also actively celebrate each other. You can celebrate your partner by:
- being generous with your compliments
- bragging to your friends about your partner
- telling your spouse exactly what you like about them
- getting excited about your partner’s personal and professional achievements
- reacting with enthusiasm to your significant other’s good news
3. Practice mindful communication every day
Everyone knows that good communication is a cornerstone to a successful and happy relationship. But not everyone knows how to communicate well.
Couples that remain happy over the long haul understand that listening is the most essential communication skill to develop. Funny…most of us think of communication as talking! But no, it turns out that listening is king.
Mindful communication starts by being fully present and attentive when you and your partner are talking. Followed by listening in a way that is accepting and nonjudgmental. This means that you don’t respond by getting defensive or by criticizing. And, it helps to sit facing one other when you’re talking about important topics.
The goal of mindful communication is to listen well and then respond by affirming that your spouse’s perspective is valid and understandable.
It can take time to master mindful communication skills. But the effort and practice is worth it! This is one of the most essential habits of happy couples.
4. Always treat one another with kindness, sensitivity, and fairness
Happy couples are kind to each other! You can show kindness by going out of your way to do nice things for your partner. You might send them a love note or do a household chore that they usually take care of.
Couples who show a high level of sensitivity to their partner are happier than those who don’t. Some of the ways you can be sensitive to your partner are to:
- get good at reading your partner’s body language
- soothe your significant other when they are distressed
- comfort your spouse when they are sad
- reassure your partner when they are afraid
- ask your mate if there is something helpful you can do for them
In addition, happy couples treat each other fairly. In other words…no double standards. You can practice this principle of fairness by:
- sharing the load of responsibilities equitably
- enjoying the same benefits and perks
- managing finances fairly
- making decisions jointly
- seeing one another as equals
5. Create routines that support intimacy
One of the most fun habits that happy couples practice is creating routines that support and build their intimacy.
Now when I say intimacy, I’m not just talking about sex. I’m also referring to non-sexual physical intimacy, emotional intimacy, and play bonding. (“Play bonding” is building intimacy through playfulness, fun social outings, recreation, humor, and laughter.)
You can build your happy couple muscle by creating routines that support intimacy. Here are some ideas to get you thinking about the routines you and your mate want to have in your relationship:
- a daily greeting ritual, such as a long hug and a kiss when you leave and return
- showing affection when you’re in public
- cuddling in bed before sleep
- making a joint “gratitude for you” list every evening
- committing to a weekly date night
- making time for sex
- being silly, playful, and laughing every day
6. Fight smart
All couples have disagreements and fight. What the couples who manage to stay happy for years and years do differently is they have developed the skills required for fighting smart.
They understand that the only way to win a fight is if “we both win.” They know that if one partner wins and the other loses, we both lose and the relationship is harmed.
Win/lose battles keep mates from truly putting their disagreements behind them. That’s because, frequent and prolonged conflict keeps people in a threat response. The threat response does more than create unhappiness for both partners, it can also cause negative health issues.
To fight smart and broker a win-win outcome, you must:
- practice your best listening skills
- stop yourself from saying mean, blaming, or critical things
- argue in person when you can sit face to face and maintain eye contact
- agree to brief fights followed by a playful break
- avoid blowouts by taking a timeout
- allow one another to disagree
7. Say “I’m sorry” right away
The last habit that happy long-term couples have in common is that they repair quickly. By that I mean that they quickly say, “I’m sorry” when they’ve upset their partner.
It’s always a good idea to repair by saying “I’m sorry” after an argument. Remember that it never weakens you to be the first to make amends. And the result is that it strengthens your relationship.
Another opportunity for you to initiate repair, is when your partner shares with you that you hurt their feelings. The more quickly you can show empathy and apologize, the better you will both feel.
Even if you didn’t injure them on purpose, you will quickly relieve their distress by saying “I’m sorry” right away. Your apology will help you avert an argument. And it will also keep the issue from becoming a bigger problem that lingers in your partner’s memory.
Knowing and understanding these 7 habits is just the first step to becoming one of the happiest couples you know.
Sharing them with your partner is the next.
Then, sit down and discuss these 7 habits so you can decide together to prioritize your partnership and make these habits a daily practice in both of your lives. And when you do, you will create a such happy and secure relationship that others will look at the two of you and wonder, “What makes that happy couple so happy?”
If you find that you have trouble integrating these habits into your relationship, you may need some professional help on how to save your marriage.