Happily Ever After: 5 Healthy Relationship Habits
1. Show love DAILY, not just when you’re “feeling it.”
Love is ultimately a choice. People who say, “I love you, I’m just not in love with you,” are usually searching for the feeling they experienced in the honeymoon stage. Expecting the excitement and emotions of the relationship’s early days to be the indicator of love will always give romance an expiration date. These couples never transition into the security of a committed, attached courtship. Healthy couples have made a lifestyle decision to express their love through words and actions; they make daily choices to foster their friendship and “feed” the relationship—regardless of fleeting emotions of the moment. These couples report higher long-term satisfaction and—although intensity varies—have a deeper love and affection for each other.
2. Don’t forget to do you.
People in healthy relationships have learned not to neglect nurturing their own individual needs. Compared to those who regularly practice a good balance of self-care, couples who focus all their time and energy on their partner’s needs, have less of themselves to give back to their relationship. It’s wonderful when couples share friends and interests, but it’s vital for the relationship, as well as the individuals, to enjoy separate interests and friendships.
3. Abandon all hope of your partner ever changing.
Most people in long-term relationships can make a list of their partner’s flaws. Someone in a healthy relationship has learned to accept their partner the way they are: imperfect. Idealistic, less self-aware people tend to overlook their partner’s flaws in the beginning of the relationship, while subconsciously expecting they’ll eventually be able to change them. Failing to accept each other, complete with flaws, will lead to resentments and judgments that will undermine the fabric of love, respect and intimacy. If you don’t think you can accept your partner’s flaws early in your relationship, consider finding someone you can fully accept before committing to a lifelong partnership.
4. Fight to resolve, not to win.
Fights in healthy relationships are used to solve conflicts. Fighting to win, or yield power over each other, has no usefulness in a relationship. The essential ingredient to resolving conflict is mutual respect. Listen to what your partner says and acknowledge their feelings, give each other the benefit of the doubt, and find mutual ground. If things get too heated or intense, agree to take a short break and set a time to come back together to resolve the disagreement. If you remain stuck and unable to successfully resolve disputes, get help from a therapist or marriage counselor.
5. Give with no expectations or strings.
The idea that healthy relationships have two individuals equally giving 50-percent effort to the whole is a great big myth. The expectation that your partner will match your efforts is not only unrealistic, but it inevitably leads to disappointment and resentment. Healthy couples don’t keep score; they find joy in giving of themselves, and do so without expecting anything in return. What typically results is two individuals aiming to give as close as they can to 100 percent, with a symbolic sum of 200-percent effort.