Research studies show time and time again that healthy relationships are a key factor in overall life happiness. So, what makes for happy healthy relationships? There is a lot of bad information out there of what this type of relationship looks like. Social media and romcoms would have us believe that strong chemistry and a great couple selfie in Greece is the recipe for a lifetime of happiness. While these may be #coupelgoals they are not the most important aspects of a relationship.
One of the core foundations of a good relationship is shared values. Finding a good partner is as simple as finding someone with shared values and making it work. This is often confused for a partner meeting a check list of characteristics. For example, if you love skiing and want a partner who is ready to hit the slopes every weekend, great! But what happens if they break their femur skiing and are out for one or two seasons? It can difficult piece out what is a surface characteristic and a deep core value. So, if you love skiing what is the core value? Is it being active? Is it being in nature? Is it seeking adventure? In what way can you or your partner participate in this value that might not be exactly what your interest is. Here is a list of potential relationship values.
Vulnerability and Trust
Vulnerability and trust are two deep intimate experiences that you should share with your significant other. But it’s tough to have one without the other. If your partner isn’t being vulnerable with you, it’s hard to trust they are being their authentic self. If you have lost trust in your partner, it is difficult and feels unsafe to be vulnerable. When you have both vulnerability and trust it creates a deep intimacy and attachment that you can lean on when other issues or life difficulties show up. It is what makes your relationship with your significant other important and special. It is also why when trust is broken in a relationship it can feel like the whole foundation is cracked.
Tip on vulnerability: If it’s not uncomfortable it’s not vulnerable. We may disclose information to our partners that other people don’t know but true vulnerability comes from sharing aspects of ourselves that feel risky to share.
Continue to Date One Another
The first thing I tell couples to do to improve their relationship is to prioritize date night. We forget to keep dating our partner and it can be easy to fall into the pattern of not prioritizing quality fun time with our partner! Often this is what leads to relationships feeling monotonous, lacking passion, and eventually becoming a distant platonic partnership.
Another important piece of this is that we need 5 positive interactions to combat 1 negative interaction. This makes sense if you think about times in life when you have been given 5 compliments and 1 constructive criticism about a project you’ve completed. You quickly forget the compliments and think solely about the one criticism. When this happens in a relationship we enter what is call “negative sentiment override.” When you are in this state all you can think about are the negatives of the relationship and everything your partner does annoys you. Sound familiar? This is a clue that you need to turn up the positives in your relationship. Want to be an over achiever? Research suggests that stellar couples have a 10 to 1 positive to negative ratio!
Investment in Each Other's Interests
It may feel extremely important that your partner like the same music, TV shows, hobbies, or food as you, but this is not as important as you think! Our interests will drastically change throughout our life, so if you are just choosing someone based on what you like in the moment, you may be disappointed in the future. What does make for successful relationships is when each partner is invested in each other’s interests. For example, if your partner is vegetarian that doesn’t mean you need to give up ever eating meat again! But it may mean that you try out their new favorite vegetarian restaurant or learn how to make their favorite vegetarian meal. Staying invested and excited about the things your partner loves will allow you to stay connected and show your love and commitment towards creating shared experiences.
Last but not least, you need to prioritize play! Play? Yep! This may sound odd but couples who play, laugh, and have fun together have more satisfying relationships. Some research even suggests that play is the most important factor in marital satisfaction. Play helps build intimacy, increases bonding, creates spontaneity to keep relationships fresh, and allows for couples to feel more confident in their ability to solve conflict. Think about the last time you were goofy, light hearted, and laughing with your partner? What are the activities that spark playfulness in each other? Find yourself a partner whom you can keep the fun and joy alive with throughout the years!
Want more information about how to improve your relationship? Check out our Couples Counseling page and find out how to better invest in your relationship!
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