The 12 Commandments of Happy Marriages
Learn these rules and you’ll be set
Happy relationships have several components in common. Each partner respects the other, and truly enjoys being with them. There are other essential elements. Read on to find out the 12 commandments of a lasting relationship.
The first six commandments
Dr. Kimber Shelton, licensed psychologist and owner of KLS Counseling & Consulting Services in Dallas, shares her rules for a happy relationship:
1. Express happiness and affection. People with relationship issues commonly say things like, “She knows I think she's beautiful, I don't have to say it.” Yes, you do. We are quick to direct problems and complaints to our partner and fail to balance them with expressions of love, affection and appreciation. Maintaining a happy relationship means sharing with one another what you are happy about and why you value the relationship.
2. Maintain a healthy sex life. Sex has many benefits to relationships. Sex decreases stress and induces relaxation and orgasms release “happy” endorphins in our brain. Sex can build greater intimacy and connection between partners. A secondary benefit of a healthy sex life is being more motivated to reconcile after an argument. If we are angry or frustrated with our partner, our desire for sex can help us get over problems and arguments sooner.
3. Have healthy and happy relationships outside of your romantic relationship. No one person can meet all our needs, nor should they be put in the position to be our only and everything. Therefore, we need to spread our emotional needs out to different people and activities. This decreases the chances of our partner feeling overwhelmed or burdened to meet our needs, and increases the chances of our partner feeling satisfied when we can bring them the needs they are capable of meeting. Keep in mind, it is two healthy and happy individuals who make a healthy and happy relationship.
4. Develop goals together. It like the idea of team sports, it feels good when we share major accomplishments with someone else. You don't have to explain how you feel or what you went through, the other person knows because they had the same goal and were working alongside with you. Like a team, you can build on each other's energy. As well as making life goals (pay the house off in 10 years), make fun goals too (take scuba diving lessons in the next year).
5. Friendship. You love your partner, but do you always like and enjoy spending time with them? A solid friendship can add happiness and value to the relationship. This means finding hobbies, interests and activities in common.
6. Quality time. Work, children, family and obligations can be time consuming. To maintain happiness, the relationship has to be seen as a priority, meaning quality time needs to be carved out. Each partner needs to hold one another accountable to devoting time to the relationship. It could also mean practicing the art of say “no” to events and opportunities that take away from quality time.
Brag about each other
Tina B. Tessina, PhD, (aka “Dr. Romance”) psychotherapist and author of Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences, shares her best tips:
7. Brag to friends in your mate's hearing. Of course, tell your mate to his or her face how much you care, but also be sure to tell your friends, while your mate is around, what a great guy or gal you married. “Harold is so thoughtful. Today he helped me around the house.” Or “Sue is such a great mom. She really gives the kids a sense that they're loved and she still keeps them toeing the mark.” Or, “Did you hear? Fred got a big promotion. I'm so proud of him.” Or, “I don't know what I'd do without Judy. She's so great with money.” Or “Doesn't my sweetie look great today? I'm so lucky.” Don't worry if your partner looks embarrassed. He or she will also be pleased, and remember your brag for a long time.
8. Focus on partnership. Remember that first and foremost, before anything else, you're partners. Keep that in mind and check frequently to make sure you're acting like partners, and not competitors or avoiders. You're in this thing together,
and partnership is what it's all about.
9. Ramp up the sweetness. Married life has its unavoidable stresses and strains. To keep things in balance, we need to put a bit of energy into increasing the sweetness between us. Thoughtfulness, “thank you's” and gestures of politeness and affection are the WD-40 of your marriage. Keep things running smoothly by remembering to add a spritz of sweetness frequently.
10. Try laughter. If something frustrating is happening, try easing the tension with a bit of humor. After a difficult interaction in a store, on the way out, you could say, “That went well” with a touch of irony. Or, when someone drops something and makes a mess, you could say, “the gremlins are here again” to change stress to silliness. Don't poke fun at your mate, but use shared humor as a way to say “I know this is tough, but we'll get through it.” Your mate will think of you as someone soothing and helpful to have around when problems happen.
11. Don't resist, listen. We often have a knee-jerk negative response to what a mate tells us, or wants to do. Instead of replying negatively, “That won't work…” or, “We can't do that,” try listening and thinking for a few seconds more. You may find out your initial response changes, and at any rate, listening and understanding is not the same as agreeing.
12. Touch each other and smile. Sit near your significant other, and gently place your hand on his or her shoulder, leg, or arm. If you're in the car, lightly touch his or her shoulder or arm. You'll find your conversation becomes warmer and more caring. And unless your partner is talking about something really sad (job loss, death, etc.) where a smile would be inappropriate, look him or her in the eyes and smile while you're listening. Your companion will automatically feel more understood and cared about, which will change the feeling level of the discussion.