When his happiness quotient in relationship is down, Dr. Steve checks out these items to see what needs attention.
I’ve been in good relationships and bad. And good is definitely better. When in a good relationship I get to see how happy I am. I may not be.
Other life events may be getting in the way of my feeling happy and even impact my enjoyment of the relationship. Sometimes life is good all round and I am still not satisfied. Once again, if in a happy marriage, I am forced to look at myself and discover the roots of my discontent.
It is at these times I have to remind myself I do indeed have a happy relationship and make a choice as to where I am going to focus my attention; on the external not so good events, or on my marriage.
On the other hand, every relationship I have been in required my attention to contribute to its success. Expecting a relationship or marriage to somehow work-out without work is naïve and the fall from the initial glory days can be a rude wake-up call at the least, and a full blown disaster at worst.
Relationships can improve over time. Here are some things that have helped me over the years.
I suppose that is one thing I have learned about how to be happy in a marriage, focus on it. There have been many distractions or demands on my time and energy and yet I must constantly remind myself that if I want my marriage to be happy – it requires time, thought and effort. And not like that effort is painful. Quite the contrary.
Taking time to be thoughtful about my partner and the relationship is actually fun. Who knew? It is not a painful process. Does not take an inordinate amount of time, and it is rewarding in and of itself.
When I take action and act thoughtfully for the relationship, my partner loves it and responds in kind, thus creating a self-reinforcing feedback loop. The more I do the more I get the more I want to do for her.
Spend time with your partner. I’m assuming you got together in the first place because you liked spending time together. Time has become such a precious and rare commodity in my relationship that my partner and I have designated specific evenings, days, and holidays that are just for us.
It is all too easy to get disconnected especially if you have demanding careers or kids or both. Learning to carve time out for the relationship is essential. You would think this gets easier over time. It doesn’t until you retire, and if you haven’t been in the habit of spending time together, retirement can be a major shock – two people sitting across from one another wondering who the hell that other person is staring back at them.
If you want to be happy in your relationship, learn to play. There is nothing like a childlike exuberance shared between partners whether playing a sport together, laughing, making up a game, or just being silly. Life is serious enough without becoming a grumpy, stodgy, controlling, stern, and stiff (other than in bed) grumpy old man. Grumpy old men are boring!!!
If you don’t know how to play or be playful, go to therapy, or acting class, or better yet, hang out with young kids. They will teach you to play. All you need to do is show up and be willing to do what they tell you.
Yup. I know some of you may hate to dance but this is important for a number of reasons. First off, let go of the idea that you have to be a good dancer. Dancing is not about how supple you are or the fancy moves you make. It is about connecting with your partner.
Connecting with your partner requires a sensitivity and awareness of both her body and her feelings. It is learning to move with her, showing strength to support her movement, allowing her to embrace you, building tension together, and releasing at the right moment. Similar to making love.
Like making love, you don’t have to do it in public. If you are shy, dance alone in your living room. But take the time to dance, she will love you for it.
It does not matter how long you have been together, if you are healthy and physically capable, making love will keep you not only happier but healthier too. There is lots of research on the benefits of sex whatever your age. WebMD lists a number of health benefits including:
- Immune system enhancement
- Boosts libido
- Lowers blood pressure
- Reduces heart attack risk
- Lessens pain perception
- Improves sleep
- Eases stress and
- makes you feel happier.
7. Love language
Each of us wants love given to us in a specific way. Our partner may be showing love in the way they understand how to demonstrate it, but it may not be our way of receiving love.
For example, I like words of affirmation, my partner likes acts of service. Knowing this, I show her my love in the way she perceives as being given love. When this happens, everyone is much happier.
How we give and receive love has been described by Gary Chapman as our love language. He identifies five languages:
- words of affirmation
- quality time
- acts of service
- physical touch
Apologizing is never easy but it is a necessary skill set if you want to be happy in a long-term relationship. I know it’s hard to believe but you will be wrong sometimes and being able to apologize, and mean it, makes a big difference to your partner.
I didn’t apologize to a woman until my early thirties. I remember that first time like it was yesterday. I had done something wrong, admitted it and was ready to move on when my partner at the time said, “Well, aren’t you going to apologize?” I looked at her with a stunned look on my face and said, “What, I said I was wrong, what more do you want?” She wanted me to say I was sorry.
I felt like it was rubbing salt into the wound. My male training was to never admit being wrong, especially with a woman. Fortunately, she suggested I had an issue and should look at why it was so difficult to say such a simple thing like, “I’m sorry.”
For me it was about feeling one-down, vulnerable, and open to attack if I apologized. Admitting a mistake was hard enough, but apologizing put me in a place of shame – and who wants to go there?
I did learn from that experience and am now able to apologize.
In my talks on communication, I try to break the stereotype that says men can’t communicate. We communicate just fine . . . with other men. It’s communicating with women where we run into difficulty.
Some of the men I work with complain, “Why do we have to be the ones learning to communicate like women, why don’t they have to learn to communicate like men?”
I believe the onus is on men because we have been trained out of effectively communicating our feelings whereas for most women, relationship, relating, and expressing feeling is a crucial aspect of their developmental process.
In my experience, problems with couples often revolve around a lack of communication, in particular about feelings. “I don’t know how he feels about X” is a common lament I hear from women in my office.
An example I use is, “If you were in China, do you think it would be useful to know Mandarin?” When in a relationship, it is useful to know how your partner communicates. Becoming adept at a few new skills will improve your relationship dramatically and make you much happier.
Typically, men are terrible at taking care of their physical and emotional health. We wait until the last moment to get care when injured. This is part of the old macho culture of not appearing weak or in need of help. Doctors I talk to constantly complain about how their male patients have left some small issue far too long and now it is a major health crisis.
Self-care takes knowing yourself which includes body, mind and spirit and attending to your needs in these area. Are you physically healthy, is your mind at peace, and is your spirit soaring?
Happiness in a relationship ebbs and flows. When you are not in touch with your partner or feel down about the relationship, look over this list and see what’s missing and where you can make some changes.
That’s it for now. There are many more items I could have included and I am sure you have some ideas too. If so, feel free to add them in the comments section below.