Whether you’re in couples therapy or just gathering relationship advice from friends, family members, and various corners of the internet, there’s a lot that goes into a happy, healthy relationship. Fortunately, both the years of research a psychologist has behind their expertise and the anecdotal evidence of married couples around the world agree on a few particular things happy couples do every day to build a better marriage.
Some of the most impactful relationship advice a couple can get is to work on improving their communication skills. Whether they’re working through couples counseling, attending a therapy retreat, or taking a DIY approach to improving their marriage, each partner must have a willingness to both clearly communicate their own needs and to be a listener with the utmost empathy. A couples therapist can help you to develop these skills, or you may just need to pay closer attention to the ways you interact with your spouse on a daily basis.
They work through relationship issues.
In even the happiest relationship, there are bound to be disagreements. However, a happy couple doesn’t dwell on feelings of contempt. After all, you can’t turn away from your marriage with a breakup as easily as a high school couple might—and returning to your relationship can be even more difficult. If you’re facing more severe relationship problems, like in the aftermath of infidelity, you might prefer to turn to a relationship expert through counseling to work through these concerns in a healthy, effective manner.
They emphasize intimacy.
For a married couple, or any long-term relationships, for that matter, it can seem like the days of butterflies in your stomach and stars in your eyes are far in the past. But this doesn’t have to be the case. From sex to emotions, happy couples aren’t afraid to make intimacy a priority. Once again, this is something that a third party, such as a couples counselor, can help you to develop with your spouse or partner.
They support each other.
Through the little things and the big, happy couples support one another. This may mean offering strength when your partner reveals an unexpected sexual orientation or standing by them through alcohol intervention and recovery. This is an area where those communication skills—in both listening and speaking—can be especially crucial. Whether they’re struggling with a major issue or just feeling down after a bad day, being there for their partner could not be more important.
They each work on their own life.
In a romantic relationship, you must put in effort each day to foster a strong marriage. However, it’s equally critical that you work on your relationship with yourself, too. Maybe you’re going to marriage counseling, diligently attending weekly therapy sessions with your spouse. But have you considered individual therapy and the benefits it may offer? Do you take time to catch up with your best friend (besides your spouse) or listen to your favorite podcast? How about hobbies—do you spend time doing things just because they make you happy? These little things might not seem like a lot, but they can make a massive difference in your own life and that which you share with your partner.
They practice gratitude.
You would be hard-pressed to find a better way to promote a happy relationship than the practice of gratitude. Have you seen the episode of The Office (US) where Jim and Pam see a marriage counselor and work to show their appreciation for one another? You likely won’t need to go to the exaggerated extent that they do, but you can still use gratitude to strengthen your real-life marriage. In fact, research shows that gratitude can help reduce feelings of bitterness and resentment while promoting forgiveness and a healthier bond.
They implement the best advice.
Whether it comes from a counselor or a well-meaning family member, you’ll encounter a lot of relationship advice from the earliest days of your marriage, if not long before. The happiest couples don’t try to take every such suggestion to heart. Instead, they think critically about these recommendations, determining whether it applies to their own marriage. They may even try it themselves and, if it doesn’t work, they’ll be quick to let that tip fall aside. If a piece of relationship advice does apply, they‘ll willingly put in that work. But they’re just as quick to set it aside—ultimately, they realize that they know their marriage better than anyone else could.
They show affection.
As Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne writes for Psychology Today, ”a little affection can go a long way for your relationship.” A healthy marriage doesn’t depend on bold gestures and elaborate displays of emotion to be fulfilling. On the contrary, it’s the little things that best cement your bond. The inherent nature of these small instances of affection means that they’re able to be applied each day, building up to a stronger relationship.
They prioritize the long haul.
The best relationship won’t allow their marriage to suffer in the long run, even if it involves a bit of discomfort at the current moment. Is it worth having a temporary good time if it means there will be a negative effect on the most important relationship you have in your life? By and large, happy couples will respond with a resounding “no.”
They remember the most important thing.
Life comes with more than its fair share of distractions, but a happy couple focuses on one crucial thought through it all: they are (typically) two people in love. Through couples therapy, everyday stressors, and the good times alike, you and your spouse must remember why you set off on this lifelong journey together. Whatever the challenge, this reminder will help you move past it and come out stronger on the other side.
Whether with the help of a professional counselor or one-on-one with your spouse, you can implement daily habits and routines that will strengthen your marriage and ensure that you and your partner are the happiest couple you know.