Singaporebrides | Relationships

June 2021

10 Secrets of Happy, Successful Couples

What’s the secret of happy couples? Psychologists and marriage experts reveal 10 ways successful couples stay happy and in love.

“And they lived happily ever after.” While this familiar phrase is a nice way to end romantic fairytales, marriage in real life isn’t so easy. Successful couples put in intentional effort to keep their marriages happy and fulfilling, decades after they say, “I do”. Stay happily in love with your spouse long past the honeymoon phase with these 10 tips from marriage therapists and psychologists.

1. Have High Standards

While it’s true that some people have unrealistic expectations of their spouse, research has shown that couples who expect more in marriage, get more. Having high standards for how you want to be treated, how well you want to communicate, and how much passion and romance you want in a marriage, leads to marriages that are more satisfying.

People who have low standards often end up in relationships that fit their low expectations of poor treatment, bad communication, and lack of romance. As Tara Parker-Pope advises in her book For Better: How the Surprising Science of Happy Couples Can Help Your Marriage Succeed: Don’t settle for a second-rate marriage. Hold your marriage to a high (but reasonable) standard and expect a happy and satisfying relationship, and the chances increase that you’ll actually get one.

2. Water Your Own Grass

Many unhappy couples are unhappy because they let themselves wonder, “What if I married the wrong person?” When you have the same argument with your partner for the thousandth time, or when they once again failed to wash the dishes, it’s common to wonder if you picked the wrong person to marry. What if you had married Miles instead? The truth is that if you had married Miles, Miles would have come with his own set of issues.

As relationship coach Kyle Benson writes, “Whoever you choose to love, realise that you are also choosing to love a set of problems. There are no problem-free candidates.” Instead of wondering whether the green would be greener elsewhere, successful couples know that the grass is greenest where you water it. They put their energy into making their own marriages better.

Janice and Gerald’s Magical Harry Potter Wedding at Orchidville by Click! Photography

3. Do Small Things Often

Of course, we all love a surprise bouquet or shiny new jewellery, but research shows that grand, romantic gestures pale in comparison to everyday actions when it comes to nurturing love and passion in a marriage. Marriage therapist April Eldemire advises couples to remember the passion with which they first pursued each other, hungry to find out every little detail of their likes and dislikes.

“Think of your relationship as just as important as your life’s work,” she says. “You’ll do anything and everything to make it happen. It is this intentional, insatiable quench for relationship success that makes love last.” The same way you used to text each other every second and hold each other’s hands all the time, take every opportunity to connect with your partner in the midst of everyday life.

4. Express Physical Affection

Remember the thrill of your first kiss? Physical affection such as holding hands, hugging, and touching can make you feel happier in your relationship because it releases oxytocin, the bonding hormone. Researcher Dr. Justin Lehmiller notes, “Study after study has found that couples who touch each other more tend to be happier.” Humans are social creatures, and physical affection makes us feel loved and desired. Simple touches such as hand-holding, a hug, or even a pat on the arm can express your affection for each other.

A Sun-Kissed Summer Love Wedding Styled Shoot at Panamericana by Presentonpixels

5. Appreciate Each Other

As the adage goes, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” Many couples fall into the trap of taking their spouses for granted over the years of being together. The things you got so excited over when you first dated become more commonplace over the years, and you forget to appreciate them. But a culture of fondness and appreciation is what sets successful couples apart from unhappy ones.

Researchers at the Gottman Institute have found that “happy couples succeed by frequently scanning their environment for ways of appreciating each other. They show this appreciation through small actions every day, consistently communicating mutual warmth and affection.” Successful couples intentionally look for ways to show appreciation to their partner, such as by thanking them for doing something or by giving them a compliment.

6. Fight Well

Conflict is a part of everyday life, and therefore an inevitable part of marriage. Successful couples understand that conflict doesn’t doom their marriage to failure, but can actually help them grow stronger and closer together. They equip themselves with the conflict management skills to help them communicate better. Learning to express your needs in a positive manner, validating your partner’s point of view, and coming to a compromise all help deepen your understanding of each other.

7. Show Interest

A strong emotional connection with each other leads to more feelings of happiness and satisfaction with your marriage. How do you maintain that feeling of being connected with your partner? Simply express interest in your partner and what’s going on in their day-to-day lives. Sometimes, couples are so busy that they forget to check in with each other. Yet, the more you feel that your partner knows and understands what’s going on in your life, the more connected you’ll feel with them. And according to therapist Robert Navarra, “Deeper levels of connection are possible when you ask open-ended questions about your partner’s internal world of thoughts, feelings, hopes, fears, etc.”

Amanda and Joseph’s Fun Pre-Wedding Shoot at Universal Studios Singapore by Knotties Frame

8. Create We Time

Everyone recognises the importance of me time, but not every couple understands that we time is just as important when you’re married. Life gets busy, you neglect to dedicate time to your relationship, and your marriage starts to look like a pair of parallel lives stuck in the same routine instead of a close-knit partnership. Kyle Benson gives some advice on how you can prioritise each other: “Find time to go on dates, ask each other open-ended questions, and continue to create rituals of connection that allow you to connect emotionally.” Invest in your marriage by carving out time together even when you’re both busy.

9. Focus on Each Other’s Strengths

Instead of staying annoyed at your partner’s weaknesses, play to each other’s strengths. For example, as the partner who is better with numbers, don’t get upset with your partner for not setting aside enough money for the bills; take over the management of the household budget. As Suzann Pileggi Pawelski writes in Happy Together, “Using our strengths on a daily basis is associated with greater well-being. And when we help our partner use their strengths we experience more relational satisfaction.”

10. Commit to Love

If you’ve been to the Registry of Marriage, you’ll have seen their “Real Love Works” sculpture. Couples who believe love only consists of happy, romantic feelings may give up on their relationship when the feelings fade. The butterflies you got in your stomach when you first started texting each other may subside over the long course of marriage, but that doesn’t mean you love each other any less. Love is a commitment, not just a feeling.

As marriage therapist Mitch Temple writes, “Everyday life wears away the ‘feel good side of marriage.’ Feelings, like happiness, will fluctuate. But, real love is based on a couple’s vows of commitment: ‘For better or for worse’ — when it feels good and when it doesn’t.” Some days may be more romantic than others, but a successful couple commits to their marriage even through the mundanity of daily life.

Feature image from: Cherie and Issac’s Sunkissed Shoot at Lower Peirce Reservoir and Sum Yi Tai by Andri Tei Photography

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10 Secrets of Happy, Successful Couples