8 surprising secrets that happy couples know
It's easy to fall in love, but to stay happy in love is a challenge. What used to be endearing about your partner, "He's so fun and spontaneous!" may now be a source of frustration, "He never makes plans in advance!"
On Valentine's Day we focus on our love, but that doesn't mean we should ignore romance and connection the other 364 days of the year! Marriage is a choice you have to make every day and relationships are work - but the work can be fulfilling and fun.
If it feels like there's been more work than play in your relationship lately, consider stealing these secrets that happy couples know. Some of them may surprise you...
-- By Andrea Syrtash
A good ‘we’ starts with a good me
Kelly knows that an essential piece of her good marriage is that she has interests outside of it. "I love hiking and my husband doesn't, so I joined a hiking club on my own. I'm a better wife and woman when I do things for myself - I come back to our relationship excited."
Tip: What's something that you used to love doing that you haven't expressed in the recent past? Reconnect with your passion and you'll have a more passionate relationship as a result.
Sweat the small stuff
It's the little things that you and your partner do - or don't do - that will affect your relationship. Happy couples know that it's important to pay attention to the details. Small gestures, like warming your partner's car on a cold day or sharing a compliment don't go unnoticed. In fact, research shows that we need 5 positive interactions to negate just 1 negative interaction - so keep the positive exchanges coming!
Tip: Consider doing one small gesture that you know your partner will like every day. Notice how it affects your dynamic.
It’s OK to fight
It's not the fact that you fight but how you fight that will determine the health and happiness of your relationship. Couples who boast that they never disagree may be suppressing their needs and desires in favor of their partners. While compromise is an integral part a relationship, expressing yourself is also essential.
Tip: If you find that you fight too much, try the five-second rule. Count to five before opening your mouth to voice your gripe and ask yourself if your complaint is constructive to share or potentially destructive.
Keep expectations in check
A woman was asked how she made her 60 year marriage last. She answered simply, "My husband and I never fell out of love at the same time." The happiest couples realize that falling in love and being in love are different, and they don't put pressure on themselves to feel fireworks daily. They work hard to have more ups than downs, but accept that there will be times that they won't be in sync.
Tip: If you haven't felt the romantic butterflies you long for, consider mixing up your relationship routine to introduce more novelty.
Nothing compares to their love
Many of us have a tendency to compare our romantic relationships with those of our peers as if we're in a 'best relationship' reality show. The reality is that none of us know the true health and happiness of a relationship unless we're in it. How many times have you been surprised to hear that a 'perfect couple' broke up? Happy couples know that nothing compares to their love.
Tip: Instead of comparing your relationship to others, consider using yourself as a frame-of-reference. Are you measuring up to the vision you held and the commitment you made on your wedding day?
It's OK to schedule sex
Not sexy to schedule sex? That's true, but it's sexier than not having sex at all with your partner. According to therapist Dr. Ian Kerner, "If you don't use it - you lose it." Literally. Testosterone levels will drop and you'll be less inclined to want to pursue an intimate connection. If you're overbooked with small kids or a busy career and never feel that there's time for intimacy, consider putting aside time.
Tip: Just because you've scheduled time for intimacy doesn't mean there's no room for spontaneity or mystery!
Don't be sure that you know your partner
Many couples pride themselves on knowing everything about their significant other down to what she'll order on a menu to what his deepest desires are. However, a study showed that the longer a couple was together, the less likely they could predict their partner's preferences. The reason? Our tastes and desires change through time, but we stop asking questions and learning about our partners. Couples who feel connected stay curious about each other.
Tip: Allow yourself to be surprised by your mate. Don't assume that just because he hated something ten years ago, he'll never want to try it again.
They are present
Is there anything more important than our relationships? Regardless, so many of us prioritize everything (laundry, emails, TV shows) over connecting with our mate. 82-year-old Carol has been happily married and widowed twice and says, "The most important thing you can offer in a relationship is your presence."
Tip: Your 'to do' list will always be full. Before getting pulled into many directions, take the time to greet each other with a hug or a kiss after work. Touching your mate will release oxytocin in your brain, which will help you feel more connected for the rest of the night.
The happiest couples I've interviewed enjoy an active life together, where they continuously share new experiences; and a dynamic life apart, in which they are able to express themselves as individuals. They believe in fairytale romance, but realize that it's up to them to create their own happily ever after.
Andrea Syrtash is a dating and relationship expert and advice columnist. She's the author of He's Just Not Your Type (And That's a Good Thing) and Cheat On Your Husband (With Your Husband).