The Secrets of Happy Couples

Happy CouplesWhat is surprising, experts point out, is that when you ask loving husbands and wives about the key to their devotion, over and over you'll hear the same things, specific habits that mirror these values. Learning these secrets can make your marriage closer too.

They use terms of endearment

Sure, you may find it cloyingly sweet when you overhear other couples talking like 2-year-olds, but endearments are actually a sign of a healthy rapport.

These feelings of intimacy can also come from using a special tone of voice with each other, sharing silly "inside jokes," or pet-naming your spouse's intimate body parts. The point is to connect with some private message system that's meaningful to you alone, as a couple -- not to the outside world.

When the going gets tough, they don't call Mom or Dad

The first task facing all young couples is separating from their families of origin. This doesn't mean you shouldn't go home for the holidays. But if there's a crisis over whether to have a second child or relocate for a new job, or even if there's good news about a big raise or the results of a medical test, the couple should talk about it together first before dialing Mom.

They stay connected to their parents

This doesn't contradict with the above point. You can talk with your mom every day and still be clear about where your attachment to her ends and your love for your mate begins.

Staying connected to parents, siblings, cousins and the like can be excellent for a marriage because it gives a sense of family continuity. It generates positive feelings, especially when you incorporate your spouse into that family. You're sharing that part of you with each other.

They don't nickel-and-dime about chores

It's no secret that most wives continue to do more in the housekeeping and child-rearing departments than their husbands. Still, when partners become double-entry bookkeepers, adding up every dish washed and every diaper changed, they may be headed for trouble.

Most couples think they should strive for a relationship that's 50-50,but the fact is, they should each give 150 percent. In good relationships, couples give everything they can. They don't nickel-and-dime each other, and they respect that each person gives different things.

They give each other gifts

Couples who are deeply connected often give each other presents or write little notes, says Thomas Moore, Ph.D., best-selling author of Care of the Soul. What they're doing is preserving the rituals, and the magic, of their courtship.

The gift should carry no strings. Sarah sometimes comes home from work to find that her husband has prepared a candlelight dinner. But it's not set up to be a prelude to sex.

They never lose their sense of humor

Humor, as many psychotherapists have observed, is the glue that keeps a couple together. When a couple can no longer laugh together, it's a signal that the soul has gone out of their marriage and they are headed for trouble.

But lighthearted couples never mock each other. They instinctively know what is -- and isn't -- fair game.

They take "for better or for worse" seriously

Contented couples encounter their share of life's miseries -- whether it's the car breaking down, a nasty cold or a missed promotion -- but they help each other get through. You don't, for example, hear them say, "How could you let that happen?" when a spouse loses a job. Couples who do well together tend not to do anything that increases their partner's suffering, like become resentful or criticize. In good marriages, people feel safe from the outside world. Each spouse has the feeling, I can count on you, our world is all right.

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