And all those “and they lived happily ever after” fairy tale endings need to be changed to “and they began the hard work of making their relationships happy. — Linda Miles
This weekend exactly three years ago, my friend David called me. He had an enthusiastic tone in his voice. “I want you to meet Lizzie, she is the most incredible woman I’ve ever met. Let’s meet tomorrow at Nando’s at 3:00 p.m. and I will introduce you to her.
It was evident he was head over heels in love with her. Initially, I was slightly skeptical, as I thought it was the typical lustful falling-in-love period that was influencing him, but I was truly glad to hear him happy and I accepted the invitation.
Fast forward to today, they are still together, and I know Lizzie much better. In fact, preparations for their wedding are underway. I now understand why David was overwhelmingly happy at the beginning of their relationship, and why he’s so in love with her today.
Lizzie is a great partner to my friend, she’s an amazing friend to me, and she also displays some personality traits that make it particularly difficult to forget her. She has a strong sense of self-love that she has taught her partner to cultivate in himself too. They are fulfilled as individuals, and also as a couple.
Did you know there are ways to enhance and intensify the happiness you experience in your relationship?
According to this research paper published in the AIPC Article Library titled Happiness and Positive Psychology, the true happiness of both individuals is the cornerstone of successful platonic and romantic relationships. (Tkach & Lyubomirsky, 2006).
As time goes on, David and Lizzie seem to fall deeper in love and they are happier than they were three years ago. From our conversation as we celebrated their anniversary over drinks recently, I learned these 7 ways that anyone can adopt to intensify happiness in their own relationships:
1. Love yourself
Men do not attract that which they want, but that which they are. — James Allen
It is impossible to fully love others until we learn to love ourselves.
There is power in making the decision to live and love yourself fully, and taking action on that intention. You take more chances, you get out of your comfort zone, and as a result, you experience amazing returns.
Get on a quest to find purpose, happiness, and your authentic self. And make the decision to love and embrace your authentic self fully.
To love oneself — to be truly emotionally connected to self — allows us to give love away with nothing expected in return. There’s tremendous power in this for we cannot give away something we do not have.
When we love ourselves, we give others permission to love us, too.
And like Buddha is quoted to have said, you yourself as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.
Love yourself. Unapologetically. And the happiness that exudes from you as a result of the unconditional love directed inward, will emanate and flow into the world around you and into all your relationships.
2. Love your partner
Happiness is love. Full stop. ― George E. Vaillant
This might seem obvious but how often do you find yourself intentionally loving your partner? Or loving other people that you relate with?
The Grant Study was an experiment conducted by Harvard Medical School which followed two hundred and sixty-eight men for over seventy-two years. The director of the study, George Vaillant, ascertains the key to happiness is love.
To intensify happiness in your relationship with your partner, there should be affection between the two of you.
I have a friend who believes expressing love and affection towards his partner makes him look weak to his peers. On the contrary, when you do something with sincere affection, you should always celebrate it. Everything born of the heart is blessed.
Love is never lost. It flows and softens, and purifies the heart.
Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength while loving someone deeply gives you courage. — Lao Tzu
3. Communicate openly and honestly
Communication to a relationship is like oxygen to life. Without it, it dies. — Tony Gaskins
I used to struggle with communicating with my partner whenever I’d feel hurt. It seemed like he should know how he hurt me and automatically make amends. And it would always bring a strain to our relationship because I would give him the cold shoulder until I felt better.
This is not right. David and Lizzie taught me that for a happy relationship, you do not shut your partner out and you clearly communicate your needs, otherwise you increase the chances of losing each other. There are various modes of communication and when you love someone you make effort to use them to improve your relationship.
Allow yourself the opportunity to fall in love, and to grow in love with your partner. It is possible that we all have all the love languages within us to varying degrees. Understanding your own needs and those of your partner will help you establish a more loving relationship.
If you invest in your relationship, and keep your communication clear, and love your partner in the ways they feel loved, and let your partner know in what languages you feel loved — you are well on your way to keep falling in love with each other until the end of time.
You don’t have to speak the same love language to have a lasting, fulfilling, intensely happy relationship. You just have to know how to communicate your needs with your partner, whatever those may be.
Communication is a key component of every healthy relationship and it’s especially important if you wish to achieve a long-lasting relationship with your spouse — or with any loved one.
4. Manage your expectations
When we manage to love without expectations, calculations, and negotiations, we are indeed in heaven. — Rumi
Managing expectations can be difficult, but it’s a valuable ingredient in learning to love unconditionally.
Managing your expectations is not the same as lowering your expectations. Some marital therapists tell couples to expect less. If you lower your expectations, the argument goes, then you won’t be disappointed by your partner.
David and Lizzie disagree on this advice, and so do I. Donald Baucom, a psychology professor at the University of North Carolina, studied marital expectations for a decade. He found that people get what they expect.
People with low expectations tend to be in relationships where they are treated poorly, and people with high expectations tend to be in relationships where they are treated well.
This suggests that by having high standards, you are far more likely to achieve the kind of relationship you want than you are by looking the other way and letting things slide.
By managing your expectations, you aim to find the balance and accept reality. To intensify the happiness in your relationship with your partner, treat each other with kindness, love, affection, and respect, and loyalty. Do not tolerate emotional or physical abuse.
5. Take care of yourself first.
It is not selfish to take care of yourself, love yourself, and make your happiness a priority. It is necessary. — Mandy Hale
A great analogy for this is the airline oxygen mask procedure — how the flight attendant instructs parents to put the oxygen mask on themselves first, before their children. If you do not love yourself, you’re not much good to anyone else.
According to Dr. George Vaillant of Harvard Medicine School, mentally healthy individuals should be in touch with their own identity and their own feelings; they should be oriented toward the future and over time they should be fruitfully invested in life. Their psyches should be integrated and provide them resistance to stress.
When you possess autonomy and recognize what suits your needs; you perceive reality without distortion and yet possess empathy. You become a master of your environment — able to work, to love, and to play, and to be efficient in problem-solving.
To intensify happiness in your relationship, you need to take care of yourself first. You can’t give from an empty cup so take time to refill your cup as often as you can.
And now your thoughts…
What else can couples today do to intensify happiness in their relationships? What works for you and your partner that we can adopt in our own relationships?
Remember for utmost happiness, you need to love yourself as much as you want to be loved because how you love yourself is how you teach others to love you.
Wishing you loads of love and happiness in your relationships.
This post was previously published on Medium.
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