Happy relationships don’t happen by accident. It takes two emotionally healthy, loving people who are committed to being the best partners they can be.
We recently asked relationship experts to tell us how the happiest couples they’ve worked with stay happy and keep their connection strong along the way. Here’s what they had to say:
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1. They always kiss their spouse hello and goodbye.
“Far from being a meaningless habit, this ensures that you connect, even for just a moment, at least twice a day. Many people in unhappy relationships say that they can’t recall when they stopped kissing at greetings and goodbyes, it just slips away without effort. When you make the time to make eye contact with your partner and kiss them, it shows that you prioritize your relationship even during the busiest of mornings or evenings.” ― Dr. Samantha Rodman, psychologist and dating coach
2. They are generous with compliments.
“Everyone needs compliments and they especially need them from their partner. You cannot give too many sincere compliments ― whether you have been together 5 years or 50. It can be simple things like saying, ‘You look especially gorgeous today’ to deeply felt statements like ‘I was so proud of you today when you gave our son such wise advice.’”― Pepper Schwartz, professor of sociology and certified sexologist
3. They disagree at times, but they fight fair.
“If partners don’t disagree now and then they’re either not being honest or aren’t human. Disagreeing isn’t a marriage problem ― it’s normal. It’s how couples work through their disagreements (or rather don’t) that can become bad for their marriage. Disagreements are opportunities to practice conflict resolution and build communication skills. Take a look at your disagreements and see what bad habits each partner has when you disagree. Do you talk over each other? Get angry? Yell? Swear? Name call? Disengage? Each partner should make a list of their bad tendencies and use future disagreements to practice responding differently and building better communication skills.” ― Kurt Smith, therapist who specializes in counseling for men
4. They focus on the things they like about their partner, rather than the things they don’t.
This positive perspective, which is a trend among the happiest couples in decades of research by The Gottman Institute, is something that increases warmth, friendship and feeling generally liked by their partner. This does not mean that they let their standards for the relationship go out the window. But when these couples are met with perpetual problems, even then they find the humor in their differences and work to find temporary compromises that enable them to continue appreciating their partner for who they are.” ― Kari Carroll, couples therapist
5. They engage in a little PDA.
“It’s sappy and it grosses out the kids, but it works. The happiest couples aren’t afraid to show affection to each other – even in public. So, go ahead and hold your spouse’s hand when you’re shopping in the mall or snuggle up to them when you’re at the movies with your friends. A little PDA can go a long way.” ― Aaron Anderson, marriage and family therapist
6. They don’t expect their partner to read their mind; they ask for what they need.
“The happiest couples we see make it a habit to ask for what they need and listen to each other’s needs (without being resentful). Running around hoping another person will know what you need or that you are supposed to know exactly what they need is a recipe for disaster. The happiest couples are delighted to openly talk about needs and honor differences in needs without feeling like anyone should have already known or that their ‘soulmate’ will have the same needs as them.” ― Dr. Danielle Harel, sex and relationship coach
7. They set aside time to reconnect and make it a priority.
“They understand that in long-term relationships, affection and sex don’t just happen, couples need to have a commitment to cultivating connection instead of hoping it just happens. For example, at the beginning of a relationship, most couples can’t keep their hands off each other. Later on in a relationship, they can’t seem to keep their hands off their phones or computers. Couples who commit to prioritizing time to be together, to show affection and to keep learning and growing around sex, are definitely the happiest.” — Celeste Hirschman, sex and relationship coach
8. They laugh together ― often.
“It’s easy for a relationship to deteriorate into just talking about logistics, saving your funny anecdotes for your best friend or coworker. This is a mistake. When couples get out of the habit of laughing together, their relationship is at risk of losing its joy and spirit.”― Dr. Samantha Rodman
9. They discuss their finances.
“Fighting over money is one of the top reasons for divorce. Unfortunately, most couples avoid talking about money until they have money problems so big they can no longer be ignored. Forcing yourselves to talk about money before there is a big problem is one of the smartest things you can do to ensure your marriage will be happy and long-lasting.” ―Kurt Smith
10. They give each other the benefit of the doubt.
“When people are struggling in relationships it’s not unusual to feel that your partner is on a completely different team that you. Remember that you are on the same team and that you both care about one another. Giving your partner the benefit of the doubt is a great strength in a happy relationship.” ― Dr. Marie Land, psychologist