Happy relationship secrets

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Everyone deserves a happy - or just 'happier' - relationship, and there are lots of ways you can achieve this. This is the second part of this article, packed full of happy relationship secrets. So, if you've landed here first do hop over to Part 1 to begin with, and take a look at the roles attention and communication play in the Secrets to Happy Relationships.

Sharing - giving and receiving

Simple sharing is what a happy relationship is all about.  It can make the mundane special, the excitement unforgettable and the distress bearable.

Try sharing:

  • chores – to make the boring stuff 'manageable'
  • new activities – to stimulate the dopamine circuit in the brain, which encourages feelings of romantic love. This in turn stimulates the testosterone circuit (in men and women), which creates the right 'chemical' environment for a possible sexual encounter
  • self-disclosure - talk about what’s going on for you.  This kind of sharing is different for men and women.  Women can learn to accept that men do it differently, and men can learn from women how to create intimacy without sex.  (Clearly I am generalising here!)
  • problems and concerns (see empathy and compassion further down)

Maintain your sense of humour

Oh... how a laugh can change the meaning of just about everything! It lightens the mood and improves circumstances simply by changing your perception. It can also normalise things, as well as potentially create a sense of togetherness.

How much happier could you be if there was more laughter in your relationship?  In my view humour is THE secret to a happy relationship or dream marriage.

Be aware though - some people are genetically predisposed to not understand the re-interpretation of a 'serious' thought, circumstance or experience into something humorous. They have a tendency to take everything literally and have great difficulty in seeing the 'funny side'.  

People on the autistic spectrum, including those with Asperger syndrome, fall into this category. I mention this because I’ve seen quite a number of couples where one of the partners was suffering from this syndrome.  Prof Simon Baron-Cohen has written a very helpful book on the subject: Autism and Asperger Syndrome (The Facts). Do look this up if it’s something that’s relevant to you or your partner.

Alternatively you can discuss your problems with an online mental health specialist right from site.

Dealing with relationship problems and other challenges

Calming stormy waters

Secrets to happy relationships elderly couple

Empathy means the ability and capacity to observe, recognise and respond to what someone else is feeling.  We have in our brain a set of nerve cells, which help us do exactly that. It’s like wincing when someone else hurts themselves. Your mirror neurons, as well as your imagination, are helping you to 'put yourself in your partner's shoes'.

Empathising with your partner will be enormously comforting.  During arguments it can also take the wind right out of your partner's sails!

Women on the whole are much better at empathising.  However, Prof Simon Baron-Cohen talks about 'empathising brains' and 'systemising brains'.  Women are more likely to empathise and men more likely to systemise. But, there is every potential for this to be reversed in an individual. His book, The Essential Difference will help you understand your partner much better - it could actually prove to be a really wise investment!

The power of compassion

Compassion is a virtue that follows from empathy.  You may not always understand what your partner is going through.  You may even feel 'put off' by their response to difficulties.  However, if you can empathise and refrain from judging this will allow you to feel compassionate. This means you’ll be able to offer support in a way that is valued by your partner.

The basic message is: be kind to each other!  If you wouldn’t dream of treating your best friend, mother, brother, boss, sister or anyone else in a certain way, then don’t treat your partner that way either. 

Compassion is defined as the emotional response when perceiving suffering and involves an authentic desire to help alleviate that suffering.*

Accept each other – really!

There is very little else I can add to that other than: you cannot change your partner.  Certainly people change when they meet the 'light of their life'. However, in a way they have chosen to change - in their own time, and in a way that feels authentic to them.

You can attempt to make your partner aware of things, ask for change, support and encourage them on their journey.  BUT... it stops there!

It does help if you understand more about what makes your partner tick. Therefore I really recommend that you have a look Dr Helen Fisher’s discoveries about compatibility. Dr Fisher is a biological anthropologist, and she’s studied the brain systems involved in 'love' - with some very interesting discoveries.  Her books are a fascinating read for anybody interested in compatibility and how we make our relationships work - or not!

What about the difficult times?

Join me in Part 3 on how to have a happier marriage (relationship) with my advice on dealing with the difficult times, and how to have a happy relationship that's protected and nurtured into the future.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3


*Seppala, E. Compassionate Mind, Healthy Body. 24 July 2013, via Greater Good

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