Human beings are born with an innate desire for happiness, which they pursue in a wonderful myriad of ways. Having someone special to share this pursuit is one of the greatest gifts in life.
Yet finding happiness as a couple may not come as easily or automatically as two people in love might initially think or believe. A happy relationship often demands a lot of hard work, especially when the priority (and struggle!) is to have a relationship that is both happy and healthy.
Healthy vs. Unhealthy Togetherness
A happy but unhealthy relationship is one where one person may win and the other loses. For example, one partner may be happy indulging in infidelity, while the other person is experiencing the painful, emotional effects of the lies and cheating. So, the pursuit of happiness should also include the pursuit of healthiness, where both persons’ needs are met.
When it comes to figuring out what elements contribute to a happy and healthy relationship, it may be helpful to think in terms of “togetherness,” which means a state of being close. Unhealthy togetherness is clingy, judgmental, jealous, and possessive; healthy togetherness is characterized by security, support, acceptance, and love. Achieving this healthy togetherness can be an enormous source of happiness and joy—hence the following five keys to a happy and healthy relationship….
Planning and designing experiential activities to do together is crucial for a happy and healthy relationship. Ideally, these activities are primarily, maybe even exclusively, to be experienced with each other. Create at least one enjoyable activity a week that is without co-workers, friends, families, kids, or pets.
The benefits of fun sexual activity go without saying. Couples may forget, however, that there are many ways to bond together that go beyond physical and sexual expression. “Playing together” can be a romantic date night with a candlelight dinner and a movie.
Other play-filled opportunities can be active sports like rock climbing, skydiving, or scuba diving, or something as simple as going on a walk together. Pick the same book to read and discuss together. Or, buy a tandem bike and take it out for a spin. Some regular, weekly playtime can greatly enrich a couple’s sense of togetherness. It just requires a little planning and forethought.
Research shows that laughter is a healing force physically, mentally, and emotionally. Laughing with a significant other only magnifies this healing process: It reduces stress and helps partners relax so they can enjoy each other more. More importantly, studies show that laughter strengthens interpersonal connection and bonding.
If a relationship is experiencing tension over a serious problem, taking a break from the issue and doing something that lightens the mood and gets both partners laughing can be a welcome relief. Watching a TV sitcom or comedy movie or attending an improv show are good ways to experience laughter therapy. Or, tell corny jokes. Recall all of those funny moments shared together. Sometimes laughter may come a little more naturally and easily from spending time together watching babies, toddlers, or animals. If dance is not a strong suit, dance together and laugh at each other’s two left feet.
The stress of everyday life with its trials and tribulations can bring negativity, pessimism, and hopelessness, which are easy to transfer to a partner. (For help with depression and other stress-related mental health symptoms, contact FHE Health.) A person can soon end up projecting their stress onto the other person and the relationship—to the degree that it causes them to focus on everything that is bad in the person or wrong in their relationship.
When one or both persons get stuck in this cycle of negativity, it makes for a miserable relationship. A simple way to get out of this rut is to focus on something positive about the person or the relationship, however big or small. Create a nightly gratitude ritual: a space in the day for appreciating one another and the things they bring to the relationship.
Text each other notes of thankfulness. Don’t underestimate the power of even the smallest expression of gratitude and appreciation. It can mean the difference between feeling like that “special someone” or just “someone.”
People enter intimate relationships bringing their own emotional baggage from experiences in childhood or young adulthood. Some people grew up in families with a long history of dysfunction. They may have had poor role models who taught them unhealthy ways of relating to people they love.
Naturally, then, each person will make many mistakes in a relationship—so forgiveness is essential. Together, identify deal breakers for the relationship; then let the small stuff go.
Consider taking it a step further by admitting to faults, weaknesses, and insecurities. Ask for help forgiving these imperfections and growing past these flaws into a better person. Generally, humans are essentially good people and don’t intend to hurt others. Be quick to say sorry, apologize frequently to each other, and express forgiveness whenever possible.
In this modern age, the noise is incessant. The non-stop chatter and constant activity mean we’re rarely able to savor moments of quiet and stillness. Practice being with each other in silence. It is a truly intimate experience.
Whether it’s a spiritual place, their home, or even driving in the car together with the music off, couples can learn to cultivate a deeper connection with one another by being together in stillness. Turn a relationship into a sacred space for experiencing a deeper spiritual connection with oneself, each other, and the greater universal energy. Put aside those cell phones and sit in each other’s presence in quiet for five or maybe even fifteen minutes a day.
Even better, meditate. Meditating together fosters truth and honesty and can help partners sync up with one another. The happiness that arises from this practice comes from a deeper space of peace and contentment with each other.
Incorporating even one or two of these keys in a relationship can make a positive difference. A little can go a long way. There’s no shame in starting small. Similarly, if only one person makes these changes and additions, they can still be transformational. Yes, a happy and healthy relationship requires some hard work and commitment, but the reward is well-worth the effort.
The article is provided by Dr. Sachi Ananda, PhD, LMHC, MCAP, a licensed mental health counselor, certified, Master’s level, addiction professional, and clinical sexologist.