Have you ever looked around and compared yourself to other cute and happy couples and wondered what it is they know about creating and maintaining healthy relationships that you don’t? Of course, there is no such thing as a perfect relationship; every couple has its challenges, and yet it’s true that some relationships flourish while others fall to the wayside. But what are their secrets? Well, the truth is that happiness in a relationship does not occur by accident. In fact, the healthiest and happiest couples actually work wisely at building and maintaining their love.
To help you avoid the comparison game from now on (because that never leads anywhere good), we’re breaking down 11 relationship habits that happy couples practice and how to integrate them into your own relationship so it can flourish, too.
1. They express appreciation daily
Healthy relationships are based on a pattern of positive expression, intimacy, and connection. Healthy couples aim to acknowledge and recognize each other daily. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it does have to be sincere. For example, you could leave a note for your partner expressing gratitude, send a sweet text message to let them know you are thinking about them, or do an act of service you know they would appreciate. As humans, we all need to be validated by our partners, so expressing gratitude regularly can make all the difference.
2. They fight fairly
A relationship that has regular disagreements is not necessarily an unhealthy one. Every couple disagrees, argues, and runs into challenges, but it’s how those challenges are navigated that matters. When in an argument with a partner, fighting fairly is far more productive than the alternative. Marriage researcher and author, Dr. John Gottmancriticism, says to avoid criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling in a fight, as those are self-protecting impulses. Instead, protect your relationship by fighting a fair fight.
3. They ask for what they need
If you’ve ever said any of the following statements, listen closely: “If they truly loved me, they would know what I need,” “I shouldn’t have to ask,” and “They should know what they did wrong.” Your partner is not a mind reader. They see the world differently, have different expectations, and have different experiences. It’s your job to communicate your thoughts, needs, and feelings. And yes, sometimes you will have to do this multiple times.
Healthy couples stay away from assumptions. Instead, they make it a habit to ask for what they need and make space for their partner’s needs (without being resentful). The happiest couples openly talk about their desires and respect and honor their differences.
4. They speak their partner’s love language
We all give and receive love in our own unique way. It’s not about what’s right versus what’s wrong. It’s about what works for you and your partner. Your needs will likely be different and that’s normal. Relationship therapist Gary Chapman pioneered the concept of The Five Love Languages, and recently, two more were added: Gifts, Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Physical Touch, Shared Experiences, and Emotional Security. Healthy couples are adept in how their partners give and receive love because having this awareness helps support reciprocity, affection, and warmth in a relationship.
5. They do chores together
Few things create as much resentment as feeling like your partner’s housekeeper. In fact, division of labor is one of the top complaints that bring couples into therapy. Couples in healthy relationships make it a priority to do their chores together. They may not like it, but they do it. One of you may hate doing dishes, while the other hates making the bed. Have a discussion about how you can divide up your tasks and then rally to get it done. Doing this together builds trust and closeness, and it also helps keep resentment at bay.
6. They make time to snuggle
Communication is important in relationships, but people often forget how effective and meaningful touch can be. Did you know that physical touch releases a hormone called Oxytocin? Oxytocin is coined the “love hormone” because it plays a huge role in relationship bonding. It also relieves emotional and physical pain, supports immune health, and helps deepen intimacy. Healthy couples make it a priority to engage in daily physical affection no matter how busy or tired they might be.
7. They talk about the hard stuff
We have two options when confronted with hard relationship topics: we can avoid them and hope that they magically disappear, or we can lean into them, practice being authentic, and deal with what happens. When we avoid our problems, we allow the opportunity for them to grow and leak out in other ways. Healthy couples rarely avoid hard topics. Instead, they make the time to discuss them and explore concrete solutions. It’s not always easy, but it’s absolutely necessary.
8. They create boundaries
You will rarely see healthy relationships that lack boundaries. Boundaries are what set the space between where you end and another person begins. Healthy couples openly talk about and respect each other’s boundaries as a way to ensure that their needs are being met and to feel safe in their relationship. Topics might include emotional boundaries (how much time to spend together versus apart), physical boundaries (physical touch and sex), or digital boundaries (how often to check in or what gets posted online about the relationship).
9. They forgive and move on
Couples in healthy relationships recognize that their relationship runs on forgiveness. In fact, it can’t survive without it. Learning to sincerely apologize and forgive is crucial for a peaceful existence and strong relationship. An apology isn’t about making a fight go away, it’s a sincere attempt to overcome an issue as a team, and then move on from said issue. Choose to be happy rather than right if you’re seeking healthy relationships. Oftentimes, that requires a sincere apology. To do that, don’t end an apology with a qualification (“I’m sorry, but…”). Instead, take responsibility (“I’m sorry for…”).
10. They spend time apart
Healthy couples have both closeness and independence. They take space to pursue a life outside their partner. How well partners succeed in honoring each other’s needs for togetherness versus separateness greatly impacts their relationship satisfaction. The ability to separate from your partner and enjoy time on your own signifies a relationship that has trust and a healthy attachment system.
11. They’re willing to reach out for help
Healthy couples are willing to ask for help. While this can feel daunting, time-consuming, and downright frightening, a healthy couple recognizes how important it is to have outside support when they can’t solve their issues on their own. This support can come from a therapist, a couples’ workshop, or any person that feels safe to open up to that can offer objective insight. The most important part of this is recognizing the need for support and tackling any topic that causes tension with sincere intentions.