While there’s no such thing as a perfect couple, some do seem happier than others.
Why is it that every single relationship seems so amazing while you feel as though you and your partner are constantly at war? It turns out it has a lot to do with our preconceived notions of what relationships ought to be and not what they really are.
The American picture of what relationships “should be” often looks like a fairytale—but reality shows like The Bachelor aren’t exactly real. In fact, studies have shown that around 78% of people are looking for some sort of Cinderella-esque element in their relationships. To find these Mr. and Mrs. Rights, we often tend to seek out those who are compatible and spark chemistry.
It turns out compatibility actually isn’t the best basis for a relationship. Sure, you and your new girlfriend may both like mini-golf but there’s no way you’ll agree on everything. People’s interests and hobbies grow and change throughout life, so while you and your date may seem to be fairly compatible now, things may be different in the future. Chemistry is also surprisingly not as important in the happiest couples. Yes, there are many studies on brain reactions as they relate to feelings of love and affection, but it turns out this can lead people astray as those powerful “love chemicals” can (and do) wear off.
The belief that “the one” is somewhere out there actually gets in the way of finding true love. When we go into relationships with fairytale expectations and expect that hot chemistry to last forever, it can distract us from really discovering each other. It takes open and honest communication, self-awareness and hard work to make love last.
The most satisfied couples really focus on what they yearn for, not just what they want. You may want your husband to drop off the dry cleaning or remember to lock the back door, but focusing on what you yearn for is what really makes a relationship deep. Dig within yourself to discover what you yearn for—usually it has something to do with yearning to be seen, to be affirmed, to be heard, to be respected, and/or to matter. Searching for what you truly yearn for will help to better understand your wants as well.
Satisfied couples not only work on “the relationship” itself through counseling, coaching and communicating, but they both work on themselves in the process. By recognizing our reactions and triggers and understanding the underlying reasons behind them, we can learn to deal with them appropriately. Have you ever asked yourself why you get so angry when your wife leaves the bathroom lights on? It seems trivial, but perhaps that deep yearning to be heard is being disrespected and therefore causing you to react so strongly.
Many people also have the belief that getting into a long-term relationship will make them happier. But your happiness belongs to you and cannot be dependent on your relationship. Maybe finding a fun new partner makes you feel energized and attractive, but many people revert to their old happiness-seeking ways after about 18 months. To make these relationships effective, focus on what makes you happy—aside from your partner.
It takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears to make a relationship work but the overall happiness that comes from those experiences is more than worth it. So how do couples become and stay happy? The bottom line is follow these seven rules of engagement and to stick to them!
1. Accentuate the positives – Remember why you love one another, and focus on the foundation you have. Affirm each other’s skills and what you appreciate about one another. With this strong focus on the relationship’s foundation, you can weather any storm.
2. Diminish the negatives – This is about getting rid of any snarky or sarcastic attitudes when conflict arises. When you’re upset about something your partner did, calmly explain why. Rolling your eyes or saying something disrespectful will never help.
3. Each person owns 100% of responsibility for their own satisfaction – As mentioned earlier, you (and only you) own your happiness and personal satisfaction. Being around your partner may make you feel good, but it’s on you to keep it that way. Determine what your goals and dreams are and work toward your own happiness.
4. No one gets more than 50% of the blame in any situation – No matter what you and your partner may be arguing about, you each own part of the blame. You may be mad that your wife bought a new juicer without asking, but perhaps you have concerns about financial goals that have not been expressed openly enough. Understand your place in the conflict and own it.
5. Express and agree with the truth, always – This is very important and very difficult, especially in heated moments. It’s vital in every relationship to always tell the truth, but listening and agreeing with the truth is not as easy. Even if you know your husband is right about something, you may want to fight it just to “win.” But the truth is real and must be acknowledged, no matter how much you don’t want to admit it at the time.
6. Fight for something rather than just against – During a conflict with your significant other, it’s easy for emotions to change rapidly. In an argument, focus on what you’re fighting for—this goes back to what you yearn for. The fight with your partner may be about something trivial, such as what type of car to buy, so dig deeper and unpack what you want out of the situation. This may be the desire to be more eco-friendly and at the same time the yearning to be taken seriously.
7. Assume goodwill with your partner – This last one is also tough, because when going through intense conflict, it can be hard to turn the other cheek. But no matter what the conflict is about, your foundation and love for each other is deeper than anything of that. Keep in mind that whatever your opinions are, you both have each other’s best interests at heart.
Couples deeply entrenched in their relationships and those who are willing to put in the work tend to be the happiest. These couples focus on communication, openness, honesty, intimacy and dealing with problems head on. By putting the focus on the relationship, and not all of the nice “fluff” associated with it, people can gain a greater appreciation for their partner and therefore the relationship itself.
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Dr Judith Wright is a media favorite, sought-after inspirational speaker, respected leader, peerless educator, bestselling author, & world-class coach. She is a co-founder of Wright and the Wright Graduate University.
Judith has appeared as a featured lifestyle expert and coach on ABC’s 20/20, Oprah, Good Morning America, the Today show and hundreds of radio and television shows. Called the “world’s ultimate expert,” her work has appeared in Marie Claire, Fitness Magazine, Health, Better Homes and Gardens, Shape, The New York Daily News, The Chicago Tribune, The Boston Herald, and The San Francisco Chronicle who calls Judith “one of the most sought after self-help gurus” in the country.
The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.