9 of the Best Ways to Have Healthy, Happy Relationships
As Valentine’s Day is upon us, it’s the perfect time to examine what habits make a love relationship lasting and happy. Compiled from research conducted by leading experts in the field, here are 9 habits that make for contented couples!
9 Helpful Habits for Having Happy Relationships
- Treat Each Other With Kindness
If you want to know how to keep a relationship strong, research resoundingly shows that kindness is key.
Kindness means using kind words and generously assuming your partner has good intentions. When they’re upset, it means listening to their perspective without getting defensive. When they share their feelings and thoughts, kindness is giving your partner your attention (not being distracted on your phone!).
Kindness is a decision and muscle that you can exercise, experts say. And evidence shows that when kindness is extended, it inspires others to act in…kind! It’s called the cascade effect.
- Apologize and Forgive
In any relationship, it’s inevitable that we will act and do things that will hurt our partners at times. Research has shown that the happiest couples know how to take responsibility for their mistakes, genuinely apologize, and forgive. One study found that couples were more forgiving when they believed their partner sincerely expressed remorse in their apology.
“I’m sorry your feelings are hurt,” is not an apology, experts say. An apology necessitates owning what you did wrong, expressing regret for how that impacted your partner, and making an effort to not do it again.
This habit, practiced regularly, appears to allow for repair and resilience, ultimately allowing couples to live more amicably in the present, rather than getting stuck nursing grudges from the past.
- Honest and Open Communication
The number-one trait in happy relationships that last, according to a Cornell University study, is communication. Participants in the study said that most of their problems could be worked out through open communication.
What does that look like? In addition to sharing life’s joys, happy couples are able to have uncomfortable conversations where they communicate difficult emotions with each other. They regularly communicate their needs, feelings, concerns, wants, desires, etc., in positive and constructive ways. They don’t engage in destructive communication such as insulting, blaming, dismissing, name-calling, using sarcasm, and lying.
When their concerns are seen and heard by each other, a couple’s bond becomes stronger. They become more resilient and can experience greater happiness.
- Protect the Relationship as a Whole
A research study that looked at happy, long-term marriages found the participating couples showed a mutual commitment to protecting what they call “marital cohesion.”
Happy couples tend to treat each other with care and respect – because they know that a happy relationship requires these ingredients. Ultimately, a couple that works to protect their relationship will interact in ways that are constructive, not destructive. They will take actions that promote closeness and harmony rather than creating distance and conflict.
- Make Rituals Together
For example, a couple that goes for a jog together every morning has an exercise routine. However, a couple that goes to the beach every Sunday morning for a walk to their favorite lookout where they sit and share a thermos of fresh, hot coffee – has created a special ritual for spending quality time together. The difference is in the specificity, details, and meaning a couple attaches to the activity.
Instead of a date night on Friday evenings, a couple could make a ritual of sharing a bubble bath and lighting a candle together to unwind from the week. Making these special rituals a habit keeps a relationship alive and vibrant!
- Make Time for Sexual Connection
This one is pretty simple: Happy couples have sex! Research shows that in happy long-term relationships, both individuals strive to improve sexual relations.
Happy couples mutually listen to each other’s desires and preferences and are willing to both give and receive pleasure and try new things. For older couples, the more often they engage in sexual activity, the more likely they are to be happy, multiple studies have found.
For a menopausal woman, trying hormone replacement therapy might be practicing this habit. For a man with erectile dysfunction, it might mean taking a medication or a nutritional supplement that promotes healthy blood flow.
Of course, physical intimacy is an extension of emotional intimacy. So, all of that kindness, communication, ritual making, and making amends carries over into the bedroom!
- Try New Things
One way to keep your relationship happy and strong is to continue to share new experiences together. It has to do with brain science.
New experiences engage the brain’s reward system, flooding it with dopamine and norepinephrine. Of course, this is the very same part of the brain that is activated when we fall in love. Some research suggests that doing new things together as a couple may actually recreate the same brain chemicals that were flowing in early courtship.
Sharing new and exciting experiences with another person is also incredibly bonding. It can be as simple as taking a different drive to a new hiking trail or park – or perhaps cooking a new recipe together. Or it can be big, like planning an annual trip to a new place where you can adventure together.
- Share the Power
While power dynamics shift back and forth in couples, happy relationships generally have a balance of power, research has found. That means that both individuals within a relationship feel that they have the power to speak up and make decisions and no one person gets their way all the time. Rather, there’s a give and take.
Being aware of power dynamics and being willing to share power with your partner is a great habit for a lasting, happy love relationship.
Happy couples laugh together. Research has found this to be true. When we laugh heartily, our brains release endorphins, which lessen pain and help us to feel good. It’s no wonder giggles make us feel loving towards our partner.
Finding humor together is a healthy habit for couples to create.
- Watch funny shows or go see live comedy together
- Create inside jokes together
- Tease each other lovingly
Also, as you get more comfortable together, let the little kid in you out and be silly.
Every day can be Valentine’s Day when you adopt habits that reinforce love and connection!
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