Happiness is one of those elusive emotions that can leave us feeling that it’s always out of reach. Happiness can feel that it’s something other people achieve. It can feel ‘out there’ rather than ‘in here’. What does happiness mean anyway, especially when you’re in a relationship with someone?
Relationships can be such hard work, as there’s so much of yourself to gain and lose. Give too much, and you can feel alone, frustrated and short-changed. Give too little, and you can feel guilty, abandoned and lonely. There is no one right answer to making a relationship work.
A recent relationship study said that drifting apart – not having the same relationship goals – pipped infidelity to the top spot of reasons for calling time on a relationship. When couples fall apart, it’s rarely the cheating that causes it. It’s the lack of strong foundations, and mutual respect and understanding, that erodes a delicate and difficult relationship. Creating a happy relationship takes time, patience and commitment from both parties.
In our experience as relationship therapists, here are the four habits we’ve identified in couples who are committed to making their relationships happy…
1. Communicating regularly
Communication is number one in any relationship. It has to be. Communicating verbally, intimately and sexually is a way to build firm foundations for your partnership. Couples in happy relationships are interested in what their partner has to say. They don’t use conversations as an opportunity for a barbed comment or a putdown. They allocate special time to listen to each other, offer support, and to explore ways of strengthening the relationship further. This can be through daily chats, weekly catch-ups, or monthly date nights. The frequency is less important than the intent to listen and understand.
2. Knowing your triggers
You may be aware that any relationship you come into will also drag luggage in from your past. Any relationship can trigger painful patterns and behaviours from your past. Being aware of each other’s early life patterns and triggers is part and parcel of understanding each other. It can take a lot for an individual to recognise old patterns from the past. It takes a more understanding and patient partner to realise what those patterns are, and to be able to talk about them before they start ‘acting out’ and hurting the relationship.
3. Finding balance
A healthy relationship is a balance of together time and alone time. Too much together time, living in each other’s pockets, may be typical of a relationship in its early stages. But for you both to grow you may need to continue with your individual hobbies and interests. Not to the complete exclusion of the other – as too much individual time can leave the other person feeling needy and abandoned. Discuss what works for you both. Find the balance within your own relationship.
4. Seeing an argument as an opportunity
When you first argue with a partner it can feel terrifying, and you may fear that your relationship is not able to withstand a row. Storming out, sulking, blaming, shouting. All of these behaviours can undermine a relationship, especially if it’s fragile. However, if you think of a ‘rupture and repair’ approach to your relationship, it may make your arguments feel more constructive and destructive. Happy couples don’t live in world where everything is sweetness and light. They work hard at their relationship, and constantly look for opportunities to make it stronger.
We have a team of couple counsellors who can support your relationship, whatever stage you’re in. To book an appointment for an initial assessment, call 020 8673 4545 or email [email protected]. We offer couples therapy and psychosexual/relationship counselling at our Tooting and Clapham centres