10 Things Happy Couples Do

By Mark Goulston, M.D.

Happy couples know that the real relationship begins when the honeymoon is over.
They know that unless you maintain the garden of love, its beauty will wither
and die. In a recent column, you discovered the 10
relationship mistakes to avoid
. Now discover the 10 things that happy couples
do:

1. Go to bed at the same time. Remember the beginning of your relationship,
when you couldn’t wait to go to bed with each other to make love? Happy couples
resist the temptation to go to bed at different times. They go to bed at the
same time, even if one partner wakes up later to do things while their partner
sleeps.

2. Cultivate common interests. After the passion settles down, it’s common
to realize that you have few interests in common. But don’t minimize the importance
of activities you can do together that you both enjoy. If common interests are
not present, happy couples develop them. At the same time, be sure to cultivate
interests of your own; this will make you more interesting to your mate and prevent
you from appearing too dependent.

3. Walk hand in hand or side by side. Rather than one partner lagging
or dragging behind the other, happy couples walk comfortably hand in hand or
side by side. They know it’s more important to be with their partner than to
see the sights along the way.

4. Make trust and forgiveness your default mode. If and when they have
a disagreement or argument, and if they can’t resolve it, happy couples default
to trusting and forgiving rather than distrusting and begrudging.

5. Focus more on what your partner does right than what he or she does wrong. If
you look for things your partner does wrong, you can always find something. If
you look for what he or she does right, you can always find something, too. It
all depends on what you want to look for. Happy couples accentuate the positive.

6. Hug each other as soon as you see each other after work. Our skin has
a memory of “good touch” (loved), “bad touch” (abused) and “no touch” (neglected).
Couples who say hello with a hug keep their skin bathed in the “good touch,” which
can inoculate your spirit against anonymity in the world.

7. Say “I love you” and “Have a good day” every morning. This is a great
way to buy some patience and tolerance as each partner sets out each day to battle
traffic jams, long lines and other annoyances.

8. Say “Good night” every night, regardless of how you feel. This tells
your partner that, regardless of how upset you are with him or her, you still
want to be in the relationship. It says that what you and your partner have is
bigger than any single upsetting incident.

9. Do a “weather” check during the day. Call your partner at home or at
work to see how his or her day is going. This is a great way to adjust expectations
so that you’re more in sync when you connect after work. For instance, if your
partner is having an awful day, it might be unreasonable to expect him or her
to be enthusiastic about something good that happened to you.

10. Be proud to be seen with your partner. Happy couples are pleased to
be seen together and are often in some kind of affectionate contact ## hand on
hand or hand on shoulder or knee or back of neck. They are not showing off but
rather just saying that they belong with each other.

Even if these actions don’t come naturally, happy couples stick with them until
they do become a part of their relationship. They know that it takes 30 days
for a change in behavior to become a habit, and a minimum of six months for a
habit to become a way of life and love.

Dr. Goulston is the co-founder of CouplesCompany.com and
the author of The
6 Secrets of a Lasting Relationship
(Putnam, 2001).

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