We’ve all seen those annoying couples walking hand in hand, gazing into each other’s eyes, feeding chocolate Danish chunks into each other’s mouths as they snicker with childish glee. Sickening? Perhaps. But what if they actually know something we don’t? One of the most important things I have learned while researching the idea of the “happy couple” is that sometimes you have to open yourself up to the idea that good relationships are not handed over on a silver platter, but rather earned through a conscious effort of ritual and rules.
1. Fill Their Love Cup at Least Once a Day
Couples therapist and author Tina Tessina reminds us that happy couples are sometimes more about ritual than natural intuition. In other words, we can’t all be Romeo and Juliettes, but we can follow a daily program designed to keep our love cups from running on empty (this is when trouble begins). Such daily love bites may include curling up on the couch together, walking the dog as you share the day’s events, or leaving the occasional “love-minder” post-it note in random places around the house.
2. Be Curious
Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, is by far one of the top selling books of all time, and for good reason. It works. One of the best ways to make a connection with another human being is to be honestly interested in them. We all began our relationships intrigued by our partner, but the stress of life can sometimes nudge us into forgetting to foster that curiosity. If you ever find yourself at a loss for words, let your curiosity take over and watch the conversation flourish.
3. 10-Second Rule
Whenever you’re in a disagreement and you can feel your inner kettle boiling, remember to give yourself at least ten seconds to think about what you’re about to say and the consequences that might follow. We often say hurtful things out of anger that we don’t really mean, but which have a lasting effect on our relationships.
4. If You Must Argue… Do it Right
Happy couples have ground rules when it comes to arguments. Unless you’re versed on the delicacies of debate, many people allow their emotions to get the best of them, saying and doing things that could do more damage than good. A few rules to live by are to start and end every argument on a positive note; listen; respect your partner; stay on topic; ask questions; compromise; and use the word “I” rather than “you” to avoid putting your partner on the defensive.
5. Two Year Rule
Studies have shown that the majority of couples (approximately 86 percent) who choose to stay together and work through their differences emerge in happier, more fulfilling relationships. It has even been suggested (by author Mike McManus) that over half of divorces could be curbed by giving couples the opportunity to cool down and work things out over the course of up to two years. McManus theorizes that one of the greatest faults to divorce is that they’re just too easy to get. All that’s needed is one partner to make a hasty decision, and a marriage can be dissolved in a matter of weeks under “no fault.”
6. If You Don’t Have Time to Walk the Walk… Talk the Talk
Couples argue about sex (a lot). The stereotypical scenario is that she thinks he wants it too much, and he thinks she wants it too little. Regardless of where you stand on how much you do it, one way to satisfy both sides is to engage in vocal sex each day. This is simply sexy talk, reminding your partner of how sexy and irresistible you find them, and possibly a few promises of what you plan to do to them later in the week. The important thing is that it lets the partner know you are thinking about them. That, along with the build-up of expectation, can leave couples satisfied until the next bout of horizontal mambo.
7. Daily Weather Checks
Happy couples make time for each other in what they call “daily weather checks.” These could be anything from a short e-mail, to an hour lunch away from the office. The idea is keep up with each other, so that even when apart, you’re still connected on some level. This minimizes the scenario of one partner coming home in a solemn mood after work, and the other not knowing if it’s because something bad happened, or because they’re not excited to see them. Keeping contact throughout the day minimizes the chance of these moments putting a crutch on a perfectly good evening.
What are your favorite tips for keeping partnerships solid?