It is my pleasure to present a guest post by Mark Tyrell of “Uncommon Help“. The health of the relationships in our life are very important for our health and wellness. I agree whole-heartedly with Mark’s steps to maintaining a blissful relationship. I also LOVE the fact that he backs up his post with research. Thank you Mark for this and to my readers, please make Mark feel welcome by leaving some comments and by adding other tips you use to maintain healthy relationships.
7 Evidence-Based Steps to a Blissful Relationship
Relationships are vital to health and happiness. In fact, a recent Brigham Young University study claims that having a loving, happy relationship and other successful friendships can actually make you healthier and so live longer. And research conducted at Cornell University found that couples in committed romantic relationships tend to be top of the happiness league (1).
But happy relationships don’t just happen. People who are “good at relationships” both do certain things and avoid certain others (2). So here from the world of psychological research are tried, tested, and (thankfully) commonsensical ways to improve any relationship.
1) Follow the 5:1 rule
According to research carried out by Dr John Gottman, for any relationship to remain happy and stable, it needs to follow the rule of five good interactions for every not-so-good one. “Good” could mean a great evening out together, a shared laugh, great sex, a nice chat, an affectionate hug – anything positive. None of us can avoid ever having a negative moment with a long-term partner, but if most of the time we make efforts to maintain the 5:1 rule, the relationship should thrive.
2) Be less critical
Contempt can take many forms: sarcasm, facial expressions of disgust (Dr Gottman found that married women who looked contemptuous when their husbands were talking were six times more likely to be divorced two years later), insults, cursing, and even public humiliation.
Gottman’s research at the “love lab” also found that if criticism was a regular feature of the interaction between partners, then this was a big sign that the relationship wouldn’t last (3). A criticism is defined as an attack on the person’s whole identity. So rather than “I’m angry you didn’t paint the fence as you said you would!” (a specific complaint), a criticism would be an attack on their whole identity: “You didn’t paint the fence! You are such a lazy *******!”
So complain when it’s justified, by all means; but criticize at your relationship’s peril. In fact, good relationships should strengthen the self-esteem of the partners in them. So…
3) Demonstrate your appreciation
Criticizing your partner is humiliating (for both of you), but saying nice things about them is a wonderful thing to do for the strength of the relationship.
People in successful relationships feel appreciated, loved, and respected. Remind your partner of their talents, strengths, and what you love and like about them. One of the first signs that a relationship is breaking down is when one or both partners start feeling that they are no longer appreciated. This is dangerous for any relationship.
4) Say sorry and mean it
Some people seem never to be able to apologize or admit they were wrong. Unfortunately for such people, research has found that these are the ones who are much less likely to ever get married or stay married than those who do learn to apologize once in a while. And the harder divorced and single people found it ever to apologize, the more likely they were to stay single. (4)
Passionate encounters and romantic soirees may bring people together, but respect and compromise will keep them together. And one of the best ways to show respect is to remember to say sorry sometimes.
5) Happily reminisce
One sign of a toxic relationship is when the couple constantly revisit all the bad stuff from the recent, middling, or even distant past. Dragging up everything that ever went wrong – every real or perceived transgression your partner ever made – is a sure and steady way to corrode your relationship, possibly beyond repair. But regularly reminiscing about past romantic times and alluding to them in conversation is a fantastic way of staying bonded.
And according to research, regularly laughing together may be even more powerful. Couples who laugh together and regularly reminisce about funny times tend to be much more satisfied with their relationships (5). Make a point of recalling wonderful times and reliving them with your partner – the funnier the better.
6) Follow Your Love Map
There was an old TV show called Mr. and Mrs. in which the winners of the show (and, as it turns out, the winners in love) were the couples who could ascertain the most about their partners’ likes, dislikes, and responses and reactions to all kinds of things. One partner would go into a soundproof booth whilst the other would be asked questions such as: “What is your partner’s favourite colour? Where in the whole world would they like to go? What would they most like to do on your dream date?” Research (6) has found that knowing the details of your partner’s inner and outer life (whilst allowing for some privacy) makes for a stronger bond and means no one is going to feel insignificant or neglected. So make the effort and let them know you know sometimes.
7) Take time to take time
Prioritize your relationship. Relationships don’t just take care of themselves once “in place”. Just as a garden or even a pet needs regular attention, so too is it important to take time specifically to tend and care for your relationship. I don’t mean to talk endlessly about your relationship, but to do things that naturally strengthen the bond as a by-product of that activity.
If you can afford it, go for regular romantic meals out or even picnics. Dress up for one another. Surprise your partner with tickets for something you know they love. Make time out just for you and your partner. This lets your partner feel they are important enough for you to make them a priority.
And finally, remind your partner often that you do love them. It can be too easy to assume that other people know we care about them and love them; but sometimes it just needs to be said.
Mark Tyrrell writes and records about relationships at his main website where there are over 25 relationship-related downloads. He also works as a hypnotherapist, trainer and blogger and in his spare time plays guitar.
The research was led by Claire Kamp Dush, a postdoctoral fellow with the Evolving Family Theme Project.
See John Gottman’s book, How Marriages Succeed or Fail.
A survey conducted in San Francisco discovered that those who stay happily married are twice as likely to be able and willing to apologize to their partners as divorced or single people are. The survey found happily married people are 25% more likely to apologize first, even if they only feel partially to blame.
The study, conducted by Doris G. Bazzini of Appalachian State University and three of her former students, appears in the January 2007 issue of the journal Motivation and Emotion.
According to research by Dr Gottman, who has studied couples for over two decades at his “love lab” in Seattle.
I REALLY enjoy this post and am so grateful to have it on my blog. Thank you Mark. I wrote a post a few years back “How to Stay in Love and Help it Grow” and find that you offer a lot of the same advice and then SOME and back it up with research. 🙂 Being married for 13 years – I CAN attest to these all being valid and strong tips on maintaining a blissful relationship. I find these especially useful this time of year when the stress of the upcoming holidays can sometimes cause extra tension around a household. Please leave some comments and tell us how YOU maintain blissful relationships.