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What Makes a Happy Relationship?

a happy relationship

Why are some couples happier than others? What is the “secret” for a great relationship? With certain couples it is clear there is something about the way they interact that makes it obvious they have a unique and genuine connection.

Even if you’re in a good relationship, you can’t help but wonder: What do they know that I don’t? And if you’re single, you might look at these couples and attribute it all to chemistry or destiny. But it turns out that people in great relationships live by a few basic rules and they make these rules a priority in their day-to-day lives together. Consider these habits that can help you create a strong, nurturing relationship.

* A happy relationship is based on realistic expectations
* A happy relationship requires work and thoughtfulness
* A happy relationship values communication
* A happy relationship turns negatives into positives

A happy relationship is based on realistic expectations

Forget what you see in the movies or on television. In other words, a happy relationship isn’t anything like what you see in the movies full of non-stop romance, candlelight dinners and whirlwind trips to exotic locations.

Real relationships take effort, time and commitment. A happy relationships doesn’t just happen because two people love each very much, great relationships happen because not only do two people love each other very much, they also value one another and are willing to make an investment of time and energy into building a happy relationship – day after day.

Couples in healthy and positive relationships have a fundamental understanding of the proper and appropriate expectations for a stable and long-lasting relationship. They understand that not all days will be full or passion and romance. Similarly, they understand that rough spots in a relationship may only be temporary if good communication is present to work through these times.

A good way to look at this is to consider not getting too excited with the very high “highs” or too concerned with the very low “lows.” Both are momentary at best, and will not define the true nature and scope of the relationship over a long period of time. By reframing these extremes, you will be left with the right measure of balance and the right set of expectations to build a sustainable and happy relationship for many years to come.

A happy relationship requires work and thoughtfulness

People who are in successful relationships work on these partnerships regularly. They don’t just set their life on cruise control expecting things to be great all of the time. Ask yourself, “What can I do today to make my partner’s life better?” Little bits of effort every day will accumulate over time and make a big difference.

Think of small, specific ways to make your relationship better whether it’s picking up your loved one’s dry cleaning, telling your partner that you’re proud of him or her, or taking over a task he or she really doesn’t like to do.

You should make an effort every day to deposit at least one act of thoughtfulness into your relationship’s bank account. Your goal, however, should not be to make a huge withdrawal at the end of the week. Your only goal should be to keep giving the things your mate wants – either his or her expressed and unexpressed wants. If there are actions you can take to make your partner’s day more convenient and less stressful, then do them. But, again, don’t do them for what you could gain by providing them.

A happy relationships values communication

It may look as if people in great relationships intuitively know what their partners need. But the truth is, no one is a mind-reader so don’t expect your partner to be able to figure out how you’re feeling.

When things aren’t perfectly in sync, couples in this kind of relationship know how to communicate. They know that instead of giving their partner a laundry list of what he or she is doing wrong, they can be specific about what it is that they want. They also make an effort to discover what their partner’s needs are. The best way for most people to do this is talk about it.

Ask your partner what things are really important to him or her. Does he want to know you’re proud of him? Does she need to be able to express her sadness over a family or work-related situation without hearing how she ought to handle it?

Too often we get into the habit of coaching and not listening. The best way to let your partner know you are listening is to ask how she or he “feels” about the situation. Once they begin sharing, your job is simply to shut-up and listen. Offer acknowledgments and affirmations from time-to-time to demonstrate you are engaged with what is being said. Only give your opinion or advice if asked.

A happy relationship turns negatives into positives

You may have heard the expression: “When you are given lemons – make lemonade.” Overtime, relationships are handed several lemons. The sources for negative feelings and unbalance are numerous. Some are directly caused between both people because of poor or missing communication. Indirect sources of anxiety in a relationship can be work- related or financially based.

When the interpersonal aspect of the relationship is creating the negativity, consider this simple exercise. First, you and your partner must be open to honest feedback. Next, ask your partner this question: “On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate our relationship (keep in mind the word “relationship” can be substituted for intimacy; support of one another, etc.)

Allow your partner time to reflect and provide an honest reply. If the answer is “Seven,” ask this follow-up question: “What are three things I can do to get our relationship to a ten (if the answer is “six,” you would ask for four things, etc.)? Again, give your partner time to consider their response. It may be hard to listen, because the answers may sound critical and negative. But really, the answers are solutions to turn the negatives into positives.

There is one more critical part of this exercise. After your partner is finished and you have taken in and acknowledged the areas for improvement, ask this question: “What are three (or whatever the number needs to be) things you can do to get our relationship to a ten?”

By asking this follow-up question, it’s putting the relationship back on equal footing and back into the spirit of a true partnership. Except for certain extreme and unfortunate examples, most relationships are successful, or not successful, because of the contributions and efforts of the two people involved. Take an honest look at how you are contributing to any negative circumstances, but also be aware it does take two to make it work and to create a truly happy relationship.

When lemons drop from the trees, but you and your partner were expecting apples, begin to make lemonade by creating an action list of what you both can do to get apples next time.

Written by Alex Blackwell of The Bridge Maker.

What’s your best advice for building a happy relationship?
How important is having a happy relationship to you?
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19 Comments

  1. Ruth January 26, 2011 Reply

    In this article what I’ve learned is that in order for me to have a happy relationship the best thing to do is “to communicate always”and show thoughtfulness to your loved ones.

    Jonathan, I loved this article of yours!

  2. Nidhi August 25, 2011 Reply

    To build up a healthy relationship communicate your inner self with your partner and enjoy the subtle moments.

  3. Ocado Juma August 27, 2011 Reply

    loving each other is a rough road. after all the efforts and patience there is always a cup of happiness before you go to sleep and after you wake up. i love being inlove:-D

  4. Marcelina Hardy November 26, 2011 Reply

    A happy relationship is one in which both partners understand that it takes each person to make themselves happy before they can make each other happy. (Did I just make sense with that?) It’s our responsibility to find happiness within ourselves and not expect others to make us happy…and that includes not expecting our relationship to be happy until we are happy ourselves.

    • julia December 22, 2011 Reply

      I love this page and I have learned so much (thought I knew it all, wrong). I was married for 35 great years,now widowed and feel like I am out to lunch most days, lol. But I am learning and it’s getting better, Thank you for this information. ~julia

  5. Erica December 1, 2011 Reply

    Always show your love and try to say it.. Sometimes it helps to reassure your partner that he or she is loved.

  6. Emily December 28, 2011 Reply

    I am young adult in a relationship and although it has been a few months into the relationship, things are becoming to get more serious, at the same time things have also seemed to have gotten a bit more problematic. I’ve come to find this article to be very helpful not only for myself, but for my boyfriend as well. After reading this I automatically thought, If I can live by these simple guidelines and apply them to my everyday life then I would know I have done all I can on my part to make this relationship work. And if for some reason things are still in “the wrong” then we can stop blaming ourselves as women for why things are going bad in the relationship. I often find myself blaming myself for all the things that go wrong in my relationships, and I truly feel if you follow these SIMPLE guidelines, your sure to have a relationship full of continual bliss. For once, we can stop blaming ourselves as women!

  7. Nicole April 30, 2012 Reply

    Happy relationships maintain healthy communication. I always emphasize the fact that there has never been another secret other than communication. To keep a relationship fun, both parties could try doing activities together.

  8. MARION May 29, 2012 Reply

    I really enjoyed reading this article…it’s very helpful and well explained.

  9. Regi-Belle October 23, 2012 Reply

    I wish you would write more articles on dating. There’s a lot on your site for established couples but how should one approach dating and new relationships? What are the charastics I should be looking for in a mate? When do you walk away from a relationship? Everyone knows you shouldn’t tollerate abuse but what about neglect or subtle things like forgetting your birthday or forgetting they said they would do something? When I read most of these blogs, they make it sound like anyone would be a great partner as long as you are trying hard enough to make it work. As someone who didn’t have the luxury or parental guidence in this area, it would help if there was some paternal advice on what to look for, when to let go and when you know you’ve found “the one”.

  10. Cleophas April 2, 2013 Reply

    After reading your article, my broken relationship was brought back on track.

  11. Magnus Imrie November 5, 2013 Reply

    Hello. I have just read this article now and yes all of this makes perfect sense, a mean ‘why did i not think of this before’. Being in a relationship with each other means that the two of you are meant to be happy together and always think positively so that we can communicate more by sharing each others thoughts and feelings. I do believe in turning every negative thought into a more positive outcome. We should be here to understand one another on every level so that we can find ways to balance things out more easily before it turns into a negative situation before it gets out of hand. Being more together with your partner should allow the both of you to enjoy each other company and to enjoy being around each other. To enjoy life, to do loads of things as a couple, who gets through things and helps one another. We should all be happy instead of dwelling in the past as this just brings up more negativity. We just need to focus more on the future ahead, to become a happy couple that gets on with life and always will be their for one another. this is what I should start believing in so that a can start guiding myself down my path of happiness once more. its going to take a bit of time but if i follow those four simple steps in this article then I shall allow myself to feeling more happier in myself and happier towards my other half once more ;)

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