By Stacey Rose, PhD, LCSW
You’ve seen them. You’ve probably been out to dinner with a friend or your spouse and noticed the ‘happy couple’ across the room. You’ve noticed them laughing, touching, and having, what appears to be, engaging conversation. Maybe you’ve even thought, “Why can’t we be as happy as they are? The truth is… you can. So, what do you have to do to be ‘that couple’?
First, you need to focus on your partner’s STRENGTHS. This is what all couples do at the beginning of a relationship.However, many couples shift gears and then begin to focus on their partner’s weaknesses. While it is common for the feelings we have at the beginning of a relationship to wane, it doesn’t have to be that way. The married couples I have spoken to over the years who describe themselves as ‘happy’ CONTINUE to focus on their partner’s strengths; even when they are hurt or angry in the relationship. Every time you get annoyed, upset, hurt, angry or bored with your partner, remind yourself of 3 character strengths of his or hers. These character strengths must be qualities you were attracted to initially, and most likely, still are.
The second secret of these couples is ACCEPTANCE. Of course there are behaviors you should not accept from your partner, such as disrespect or abuse.(If that is the case, seek professional help.) But aside from those, if she often loses her keys or he often listens to the tv too loudly, you can most likely accept these behaviors. Just like you, your partner is not perfect. If you are focused on the ‘little things’ he or she does to bother you, you will obviously feel bothered. If instead, you look at him or her with appreciation and acceptance, your relationship benefits greatly. It is likely the more accepting you are of each other, the closer you will feel to each other.
Last, but not least at all, is that happy couples have FUN! Happy couples know how to play with each other, whether it is by flirting/friendly teasing, making each other laugh or doing the extra silly little things they used to do for each other at the beginning of the relationship. This may require some thought or planning on your part but fun is actually a necessary part of relationships and of life. Some husbands or wives may say, “Well, s/he is no fun!” If that is how you feel, it is simply an indication that you and your partner need to create more fun, as you have allowed other things to get in the way. Yes, work and parenting responsibilities are priorities but FUN needs to be too! Fun is critical to a healthy relationship.
So, I ask you…do you want to be that ‘happy couple’ in the restaurant that others look at with envy? If so, start applying the above secrets right now!