Happiness within a relationship is hard to define. Not only is each relationship different, but within each relationship, each person defines happiness in an individual way. Some people view happiness as a peaceful conflict-free life. For some, happiness involves a tremendous amount of fun, great intimacy or lots of laughter. Whatever your definition, it directly correlates to your expectations, desires, wants and needs—and those things can change over time.
What holds constant are 7 specific behaviors and attributes laid out below that, in my experience, can almost guarantee the likelihood of long-term success and happiness in a relationship.
If you work toward integrating these keys into your daily life, you will most certainly experience greater joy and less conflict in your primary relationships.
Every successful relationship is built on a foundation of respect. Respect means caring about your partner’s wants and needs and always taking them into account before speaking or acting. The expectation is that your partner will follow the same guidelines. My official definition is as follows: Respect means putting the comfort, well-being and happiness of the person you’re with at an equal level to your own.
We feel happy when we know that someone has our backs. Relationships have the greatest success when each partner focuses on supporting one another at all times. This means that if someone is antagonizing your partner, you will either back your partner up directly or support him or her from behind the scenes. This also means that if your partner has done something you believe is wrong or that you don't approve of, that you speak to him or her privately about the issue, never in front of others.
If you want to build a stronger positive relationship, let your partner know that he or she is a priority. Commit time and energy to talking and addressing each other’s wants and needs. Be sure that the two of you have “quality time” alone to connect and enjoy each other’s company. Even though work, children and other obligations are also priorities, find the balance so that your partnership is not neglected.
4. Pick Your Battles
Strong and happy couples know when to bring up issues and when to put them aside. My rule of thumb: If you can let something go, move on and still enjoy your partner … let it go! If you cannot move on and are ruminating or worrying about something, then bring it up. When you do bring it up, make sure it is in a calm manner, in private and at a good time for you two to discuss it. Never bring something upsetting up in bed, and never in earshot of children or other family or friends.
5. Loving Gestures
The concept “Actions speak louder than words” is an important one when it comes to relationships. It is not enough to simply feel that you love someone, you must also show that you love that person. Use kind words, be physically affectionate, leave little love notes around the house … whether it’s a verbal gesture or a material one, make sure that you are letting your partner know in no uncertain terms that you love him or her.
6. Put in the Work
Partners in a successful relationship understand that you need to put in the work to keep things running smoothly. That means sometimes you need to do things that you do not want to do because it matters to your partner. Other times it means you have to put in that extra effort to calm down or hear out your partner’s concerns, even if that isn’t the easiest or most convenient thing to do in the moment. Relationships take a lot of work if they are going to be happy, successful and long-lasting.
7. Focus on the Positives
Even the best of relationships have challenges, and even the most wonderful of partners can have less-than-stellar moments. When times are tough, those who are seeking a happy relationship will combat the negative with a positive. If your mate is irritable after a long day, remind yourself about that great time you had last weekend or how funny he or she can be. If you have found that your partner is a bit messy, for example, and it doesn’t seem to change, focus on the fact that he or she is a great cook or a terrific parent. Reverse your thinking to remind yourself that your mate has great qualities and that you are happy to be together.
Stacy Kaiser is a licensed psychotherapist, author, relationship expert and media personality. She is also the author of the best-selling book, How to Be a Grown Up: The Ten Secret Skills Everyone Needs to Know, and an editor-at-large for Live Happy. Stacy is a frequent guest on television programs such as Today and Good Morning America.