How does one have a happy, healthy long-term relationship? Considering the current rate of divorce in the United States (40-50%), it would seem as though the answer is elusive, at least to half of Americans.
Indeed, thinking about how to make a relationship work can be overwhelming. Which is why the easiest way to think about it is to break it down into smaller, more digestible daily actions. Successful couples make it look easy from the outside, but in reality, they struggle just like the rest of us. Here are ten little things they do every day to build a solid enough foundation to carry them through the more difficult times.
10. They say “thank you”
By noticing, appreciating, and thanking each other daily, couples let each other know that they value and love one another. Psychologists call this “filling each other’s emotional bank account.”
The logic goes as follows: “Partners who characteristically turn towards each other rather than away are putting money in the bank. They are building up emotional savings that can give them a sense of peace and security when they go through hard times. Because they have stored up so much mutual goodwill, they are better able to make allowances for each other when conflicts arise.”
Renowned psychologist and the world’s foremost student of divorce prediction and marital stability, Dr. John Gottman provides an example from his own research, finding that “happily married couples noticed almost all of the positive things the researchers observed their partners do for them…unhappily married couples underestimated their partners’ loving intentions by 50 percent!”
9. They go to bed at the same time
This doesn’t necessarily mean falling asleep at the same time — just bookending the day together leads to greater feelings of togetherness and intimacy.
75% of couples go to bed at different times for whatever reason, which therapists say can cause couples to “silently drift apart.” Partners with mismatched sleep patterns were also found to fight more and talk less.
Licensed professional clinical counselor and sex therapist Kristie Overstreet says, “In my experience as a relationship therapist, couples that go to bed at the same time have a more trusting relationship than those who don’t.”
8. They set boundaries, and respect them
Setting boundaries is important for any relationship, and a romantic one is no different. Understanding what your partner needs emotionally and physically, especially at a critical time — and not taking it personally — is key towards maintaining a respectful, and thus empathetic relationship.
“If everyone knows the ground rules, it’s easier to play within the lines and minimize some of the pitfalls that come from not addressing boundaries,” explains Dr. Megan Stubbs to Bustle.
7. They show PDA
You don’t need to suck on your SO’s face in order to show public affection. Something as simple as putting your arm around their shoulders while out with friends, holding hands while walking down the street, or a quick smooch on the cheek will go just as far towards reinforcing your mutual affection for one another.
Online dating expert and author of The Perils of Cyber-Dating Julie Spira explains: “Intimacy and touch keeps you connected with your partner. It fosters a connectedness that supports a strong and happy relationship.”
“Just touching your partner will help you feel more connected, both physically, emotionally and intellectually. Plus, it’s a great form of foreplay,” she adds.
6. They make each other laugh
It’s not that successful couples are constantly cracking jokes — it’s that they share the same sense of humor. According to University of Kansas professor Jeffrey Hall, couples who create humor together have higher levels of relationship satisfaction than those who don’t find the same things funny.
‘Playfulness between romantic partners is a crucial component in bonding and establishing relational security,” Hall wrote in the 2017 study, adding that “shared laughter is an important indicator of romantic attraction between potential mates.”