Relationships are hard. The divorce rate in the US is 70 percent for a reason, people. Movies and television have given us a skewed perception of relationships, where the happy couples stay happy with little to no work involved and dramatic couples either struggle to get together and then ~become~ those happy couples or realize they were never meant to be. Real life forces you into a middle ground where love becomes a million tiny things that happen throughout the day instead of constant cinematic grand gestures. We've found 20 little habits can make your relationship happier and give you a better chance of being part of the 30 percent.
There's science supporting the healing benefits of a good hug. Psychology Today cites our skin's haptic and tactile memories which are totally separate from our conscious thoughts. Essentially, "good touches" are associated with love, "bad touches" with abuse, and "no touches" with neglect. If you regularly hug your partner, you'll associate their skin with "good touch" and give your relationship a subliminal boost. Lifehack takes it a step further, saying that cuddling can release oxytocin through physical touch, which is the same hormone that is released upon orgasm. It lowers your blood pressure to create feelings of calm, safety, and trust.
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Chris Evans sent this sweet snap to Anna Faris in What's Your Number to show that he was using her stuff, but it also meant that he was thinking about her. Clearly, they fall in love. Lifehack's idea is that checking in throughout the day will keep you connected to your S/O and show they're a priority, but Psychology Today puts in it a more practical light. If you know what your partner's mood is that day, you'll know what to expect when you see them after work. If they're having a terrible day and you're expecting them to get excited about something, you'll have a better understanding of their response if you know they've taken a lot of Ls since breakfast.
If you're me (or Lorelai Gilmore), bringing us coffee is more of a self-preservation instinct than a sweet gesture. An uncaffeinated Lorelai isn't really Lorelai at all. The small act of bringing your S/O coffee (or tea, if they're boring) shows your love through the acts of service love language. It starts the day with an expression of love, and drinking a cup of coffee together before starting your busy days can give you two a chance to reconnect every morning with another of the five love languages, quality time.
A 1992 book by Gary Chapman on the five love languages has basically become relationship gospel. His theory is that everyone has a primary and a secondary love language out of words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. You and your S/O might not have the same love languages, which means the things that make you feel the most loved and valued might not have the same effect on them. Chuck Bass figured out that Blair Waldorf's love language was receiving gifts with an acts of service rising, but if he had assumed she preferred physical touch like he did, his gesture wouldn't have been as effective and they likely would have never said those three words, eight letters.
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's fictional marriage in Mr. & Mrs. Smith was suffering until the couple had to join forces to escape an army of government assassins. Before they had a team goal to work towards, they'd grown apart and gotten bored of the mundanity of married life. Your goals don't have to be as life or death as the Smiths', but having short and long term goals to work on as a team will bring you closer by reminding each other that you're in this together. Setting individual goals for yourself is also helpful because it ensures that you continue growing as an independent person who is happy in their own skin.
We all have that one friend who literally cannot put their phone down. Like, sure, we're all guilty of being a little too attached to our smartphones, but you need to know how to unplug and have an actual human conversation to let any relationship thrive, romantic or otherwise. Showing up physically is only half of the battle, and it sends a negative message if you're always distracted by your texting conversations while your S/O is trying to have an actual IRL talk. Being mentally checked-in will let your partner know you actually want to be with them and value their personhood.
It's the tiny courtesies that tend to leave first in long relationships. After being glued to your partner's hip for months or years, good manners like walking them home, helping with chores, or cleaning up after themselves can slowly leave as you become complacent and comfortable. Then, you stop flirting, which takes another spark out of the relationships, and eventually, you're with an entirely different person than the one you fell for. Being together doesn't mean you don't still need to court each other every day.
Hannah Montana was right: nobody's perfect. You might not understand your S/O's love for comic books, like Summer Roberts, but if Summer learned to love Seth Cohen's many, many quirks, you can love your partner's, too. Don't fight just because you're different, and don't let a tiny mistake become a big, passive-aggressive ~thing~ just because you're in a bad mood. Save the drama for bigger problems that actually need to be discussed, and go into disagreements with a spirit of forgiveness, compromise, and open communication.
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Eventually, even if you're picking your battles, you and your partner are going to get into a fight. We're human, it happens. The Huffington Post talked to a men's therapist named Kurt Smith, who says that the way couples work through their arguments can be the hallmark of a good marriage. He suggests making lists of your bad fighting tendencies like swearing, name calling, disengaging, or yelling to become self-aware of what you need to work on, then use future fights as opportunities to grow and build better communication habits.
If morning coffee isn't your thing because you believe mornings were invented by capitalism to torture us, there are plenty of other rituals you can use to stay close to your S/O. Women's Health spoke to a woman who puts wrinkle cream on her husband every night before bed, which he grew to love and it has helped them bond. In return, he sends her songs of the day every day that express how he feels, which always make her smile (and occasionally cry). It's a ritual that started when they were dating and continued through their long relationship. These small daily gestures can become a part of your daily routine that is special to your relationship, an easy action that reminds your partner that they're loved.
Remember those manners we mentioned earlier? The Golden Rule for well-mannered people, outside of "treat others how you'd like to be treated" (which definitely applies here as well, PSA), is to say please and thank you. We don't mean to say it as a habit or a reflex, but to cultivate genuine gratitude for your partner's acts of service and express that gratitude to them. A recent Psychological Science study shows that people tend to underestimate the power of saying thank you and overestimated potential awkwardness of making heartfelt displays of gratitude. People that received letters of thanks responded with surprise and delight, even though the senders assumed the recipients already knew they were grateful to them.
Melissa Chapman, founder of the relationship blog I Married My Sugar Daddy, told Women's Health that her husband always tears up when she tells him how handsome he is. Even though you may assume your partner knows that you're attracted to them every day, humans are fundamentally a little neurotic and insecure, and they legitimately might not realize that they have the same effect on you today that they did when you first fell in love. Giving regular, sincere compliments shows that you're paying attention and appreciate your partner, and they can give your S/O external validation within your relationship that means the world to them.
Women's Health and The Huffington Post both cite a habit of kissing hello and goodbye as a happy couple's habit. HuffPo spoke to Dr. Samantha Rodman, a psychologist and dating coach who says kissing hello and goodbye ensures that couples connect with eye contact and physicality at least twice daily. She says this shows that your relationship is a priority even during busy times of day when you're in a rush. She takes it another step further, claiming that unhappy couples can't remember when they stopped this ritual because it just slipped away. Yikes.
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HuffPo also spoke to Kari Carroll, a couples therapist who cited research by The Gottman Institute as evidence that keeping a positive perspective increases warmth and friendship in relationships. Focusing on the good things about your partner instead of the things you wish they would change allows couples to compromise more easily during hard times and to find humor within their differences. They still work to improve themselves and make their partners happy, but their spirit of optimism makes this process a healthy one where you can enjoy the journey.
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Open communication is the key to healthy relationships. Asking for what you need in a relationship shouldn't be met with resentment, it should be a regular habit that your S/O actually appreciates. They can't read your mind, and you can't read theirs, so being happy to talk about your needs with each other without assuming your partner should just magically ~know~ because they know you is the not crazy way to get what you want out of a relationship. Sex and relationship coach Dr. Danielle Harel agrees, calling anything else a "recipe for disaster."
Time Magazine and Health.com say that going to bed at the same time as your partner gives you an opportunity to be alone together, possibly for the first time all day, which can prevent you from slowly drifting apart. A UC Berkeley study also showed that couples who get a good night's rest were less likely to argue with each other the next day, so making sure you and your partner get the seven hours you need could stop unnecessary bickering. Even if you're nocturnal and your partner has a normal sleep schedule, just getting ready for bed with them and chilling until they drift off can give you the same benefits as actually going to sleep at the same time without you needing to reset your internal clock.
A lot of Rachel Chu and Nick Young's problems could have been avoided if they'd just had an open and honest conversation about money. Your partner secretly hiding billions of dollars is honestly the best-case scenario here, but Kurt Smith (that therapist from earlier) says that arguments about finances are one of the top reasons that married couples divorce. Having the uncomfortable conversations about money like how much you have, how you plan on sharing during marriage, and whether you want a prenup before they become a big problem can prevent relationship-ending issues from popping up out of nowhere.
Popular relationship blogger and relationship coach Angel Chernoff makes a case for stating the obvious. It's wild how many people fully embrace becoming an "us" and forget the importance of staying a "me." If you don't practice self-care and find self-awareness, you might reflect your insecurities and issues onto your partner. If you can understand where your negative feelings are coming from and possibly eradicate the issue, you'll save any tiffs with your S/O for issues you actually have *with* your S/O, instead of issues you have with yourself. Also, Chris Evans has said he only wants to be with someone that can be an individual and have their own lives instead of just adopting his, so all the more reason to be your own person even when you have a partner.
Imagine how awkward it would be if Danielle and Kevin Jonas compared themselves to Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner or Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra. Or if Nick and Priyanka tried to compare their weddings with Joe and Sophie's Vegas elopement. Different couples want different things and express their love in different ways. Duh. If you keep looking to your friends' or relatives' relationships and comparing them to your own, it'll be a self-fulfilling prophecy of insecurities and pain that you do not need. Focus inwardly on what makes your relationship special for you and work on it together instead of trying to be other people.
Angel Chernoff said, "Don’t listen so you can reply, listen to understand." This is advice that's given left and right, but ironically, no one ever seems to actually absorb what it's trying to say. You can hear what someone is saying without going into a conversation with an open heart and mind, with the ability to look at things from your S/O's perspective. Just because you don't agree doesn't mean that you can't acknowledge their reasoning and understand that it can have validity even if it doesn't change your mind. It's part of being respectful and of learning to better compromise.