How to Have a Happy Relationship
Every love story is unique and, by nature of diversity, there isn’t a list that exists to tell us exactly what we need to do to attain romantic bliss. There will be ups and downs. There are, however, general guidelines to avoid downward spirals and pitfalls when it comes to love. VIVA investigates with relationship coaches to help you keep the peace and the smiles.
Don’t avoid confrontation
We’ve seen it all too often in the movies – happy couples don’t seem to get into arguments and if they do, it’s catastrophic or irreparable (until the ending when he chases her to the airport before she boards the plane...). The reality is that fights, or at least open communication about awkward or hurtful subjects, are necessary for progress in any relationship, especially the most successful ones.
“No two human beings alive will agree on everything and always meet each other’s needs and expectations, and that’s part of the excitement of being together,” writes Esther Boykin, a licensed marriage and family therapist with Group Therapy Associates, who shares her top relationship no-no’s on wellness site www.mindbodygreen.com. “The danger is not in conflict, but in avoiding difficult topics and ignoring your feelings.”
As such, many people avoid hashing out issues for fear that having a fight is a sign of an unhappy or unhealthy relationship. Quite the opposite is true.
“I like to remind everyone that anger and frustration is not the opposite of love, indifference is,” says Esther. “When you stop talking, you stop connecting and that’s the real danger.”
So don’t clam up – learning to open up is key for you and your partner to be able to talk about anything and work through challenging issues.
This is a healthy trait to nurture for all aspects of your life. Evan Marc Katz, top dating coach, writes on his blog www.evanmarckatz.com: “People live in fear, bite their tongues, many are afraid of the consequences of actually speaking up – think of how good you will feel when you’ve had a conversation about getting your needs met, without making him wrong, and he responds positively. With the right guy and right tone, speaking your mind shouldn’t cause too much conflict every time – if it does, find another partner.”
Turn to your partner
When you have a major difference of opinion about an important issue, it is so easy to rush to your best friend or your mum – someone who most likely already shares your opinion on the matter – than to talk things through with your partner. Again, communication is crucial here and learning to talk clearly is much easier between two people than a committee.
“Friends and family can be amazing support systems and a necessary source of love and encouragement for your relationship, but when times are tough, they can’t become your go-to for comfort,” writes Esther. “In order to establish a deep and meaningful connection, you must learn how to weather storms as a team, relying on one another first, which requires honest communication and a willingness to be vulnerable with each other and establish clear boundaries.”
Over time, you will prefer to go to one another first to talk over major issues, once you hone your communication skills and deepen your empathy.
“Empathy is what makes us sensitive to strangers suffering in other countries, kids who are bullied, minorities who are discriminated against, and yes, our partners, who have their own unique set of beliefs and insecurities,” writes Evan. “You may disagree with your partner, but you have to do your best to validate where he’s coming from and vice versa.”
When doubt sets in
It happens to the best of us: the infatuation phase is dimming and suddenly, it’s like you are seeing your partner’s flaws for the first time. You get a dreaded feeling in your gut... have you made a mistake? Psychologists say that such thoughts, whether they arrive months or years into a relationship, are completely normal (so long as there are no major red flags such as adultery or abuse, of course).
“When the initial attraction sours, I call it the first day of your real marriage,” writes Terrance Real, an American family therapist, in Psychology Today. “It’s not a sign that you’ve chosen the wrong partner, it is a signal to grow as an individual and take responsibility for your own frustrations. Invariably, we yearn for perfection, but we are stuck with an imperfect human being. We all fall in love with people we think will deliver us from life’s wounds, but who wind up knowing how to provoke them instead.”
When this happens, we begin blaming our partners for our own unhappiness or even looking outside of our relationship. Instead, psychologists recommend shifting focus to yourself and asking “Why am I unhappy and what do I need to do about it?” This will force you to take responsibility for your own happiness.
Women love to look at issues in minute detail. Evan writes that if men have one complaint, it’s that every detail of a relationship needs to be analyzed to death every time.
“Men may be clueless sometimes and relatively un-analytical in general, but over-thinking is poisonous because it leads to unnecessarily drilling into issues,” warns Evan. Instead, learn to let go and focus on what matters.