To infuse Valentine’s Day with good loving we spend a lot of energy on planning. There are the cards hidden in sock drawers, boxes of chocolates bought and bouquets of roses ordered. Then there are the reservations needed for dinner dates followed by hours of research into best speakeasies for late night dancing. But here’s a thought – how about instead of investing in just one day, you put that energy into creating habits that would put love in the air for the whole year and beyond? Dr. Mark Goulston offers ten best practices to keep the sparks flying in your relationships.
1. Go to bed at the same time
Remember the beginning of your relationship, when you couldn’t wait to go to bed with each other to make love? Happy couples resist the temptation to go to bed at different times. They go to bed at the same time, even if one partner wakes up later to do things while their partner sleeps. And when their skins touch it still causes each of them to tingle unless one or both are too completely exhausted to feel sexually excited.
2. Cultivate common interests
After the passion settles down, it’s common to realize that you have few interests in common. But don’t minimize the importance of activities you can do together that you both enjoy. If common interests are not present, happy couples develop them. At the same time, be sure to cultivate interests of your own; this will make you more interesting to your mate and prevent you from appearing too dependent.
3. Walk hand in hand or side by side
Rather than one partner lagging or dragging behind the other, happy couples walk comfortably hand in hand or side by side. They know it’s more important to be with their partner than to see the sights along the way.
4. Make trust and forgiveness your default mode
If and when they have a disagreement or argument, and if they can’t resolve it, happy couples default to trusting and forgiving rather than distrusting and begrudging.
5. Focus more on what your partner does right than what he or she does wrong
If you look for things your partner does wrong, you can always find something. If you look for what he or she does right, you can always find something, too. It all depends on what you want to look for. Happy couples accentuate the positive.
6. Hug each other as soon as you see each other after work
Our skin has a memory of “good touch” (loved), “bad touch” (abused) and “no touch” (neglected). Couples who say hello with a hug keep their skin bathed in the “good touch,” which can inoculate your spirit against anonymity in the world.
6. Say “I love you” and “Have a good day” every morning
This is a great way to buy some patience and tolerance as each partner sets out each day to battle traffic jams, long lines and other annoyances.
8. Say “Good night” every night, regardless of how you feel
This tells your partner that, regardless of how upset you are with him or her, you still want to be in the relationship. It says that what you and your partner have is bigger than any single upsetting incident.
9. Do a “weather” check during the day
Call your partner at home or at work to see how his or her day is going. This is a great way to adjust expectations so that you’re more in sync when you connect after work. For instance, if your partner is having an awful day, it might be unreasonable to expect him or her to be enthusiastic about something good that happened to you.
10. Be proud to be seen with your partner
Happy couples are pleased to be seen together and are often in some kind of affectionate contact — hand on hand or hand on shoulder or knee or back of neck. They are not showing off but rather just saying that they belong with each other.
According to Dr. Goulston, happy couples have different habits than unhappy couples. He describes a habit as a discrete behavior that you do automatically and that takes little effort to maintain. It takes 21 days of daily repetition for a new a behavior to turn into a habit. So select one of the behaviors in the list above for 21 days and practice it daily until it becomes habit…the effort will make you happier as a couple.
And be forgiving if you make a mistake. It’s not on the list, but one of Dr. Goulston’s most important rules to happy coupledom is listening. Really listening. The kind of listening you do with your mouth closed, not making a sound. Dr. Goulston has written that “If there was one key to happiness in love and life and possibly even success it would be to go into each conversation you have with this commandment to yourself front and foremost in your mind, Just Listen. By listening you show that you are more interested than interesting, more fascinated than fascinating and more adoring than adorable.” There is nothing better for a happy relationship than knowing you are heard and loved.
Editors note: This post was written with the help of Dr. Mark Goulston. I’ve known Dr. Goulston for a good many years and was thrilled to have his input this Valentine’s Day. His Ten Tips to a Happier Relationship have been widely published and are always a good reminder of what to do to keep your relationship fresh and feeling like it did when you first fell in love. And I can attest to the power of working on good relationship habits with a very happy marriage going on 27 years!
Read more from Dr. Goulston:
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