Feeling happy and close in your relationship does not come automatically when you say your marriage vows or make your commitment to your partner. Feelings of emotional closeness and happiness are created and nurtured every day through your behaviours towards one another and the thoughts you hold on to. Although you cannot control the way your partner behaves, when you behave in loving ways, you increase the chances that your partner will behave lovingly towards you. Also, when you behave kindly and think lovingly, there are actual chemical reactions in your body that raise your feelings of happiness.
Five other ways to increase your relationship happiness:
1. Communicate openly and honestly
It may feel like an enormous risk to be open and honest with your partner. There is always the chance that s/he may not like what you say and may not respond as you had hoped. On balance, this is a risk that is usually worth taking. When you say what you are really thinking and feeling, and when you express your needs assertively, your partner is able to understand you more completely. It is also an invitation to open a dialogue with your partner. This can prevent many misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and conflicts that would diminish your happiness.
2. Treat your partner with respect
It is a fallacy to believe that when you are in a relationship you no longer need to behave civilly, kindly, and politely. Communicating openly does not mean expressing yourself by using mean-spirited language, name calling, or put downs. Although it is important to be honest, you can choose the words you use and your tone of voice. If you are not sure how respectful you are towards your partner, ask yourself if this is how you would treat an honoured guest in your home.
3. Trust and be trustworthy
Trust is a key element for happiness in a relationship. Many people have difficulty trusting others, including their partner. Unless s/he has proven to be chronically dishonest, trusting your partner is a choice that needs to be made. You will be happier if you choose to believe than if you harbour suspicions that may well be unfounded. Yes, if you are betrayed you will feel unhappy when you discover your partner’s dishonesty. However, if you distrust all along the way, you will be unhappy the entire time, even when your partner is being honest. Happiness lies on the side of trusting.
The other facet of trusting is being trustworthy. Trustworthy behaviours include keeping your word and your promises, holding your partner’s confidences, taking your partner’s best interest into account, and being dependable. Knowing that your partner can trust you is another source of happiness.
4. Be playful
Being close to someone involves having fun together. Sharing the silly side of life, having little adventures, lightening up, and not taking yourself too seriously will make your relationship much more fun.
5. Take time
No matter how busy life becomes, in order to be happy within your relationship, you must spend time together. Setting aside “couple time” and creating moments to share shows that you value both your partner and your relationship.
You may have noticed that these suggestions for increasing happiness in your relationship focus on your own behaviours and thoughts, not those of your partner. It is not what s/he gives to you or does for you that brings the most happiness: it is what you do and what you believe. Empowering yourself through positive choices in your thoughts and behaviours will lead to greater happiness within your relationship.
Joan Stafford, M.Ed., RP, CCC, RMFT