It takes effort.
The search for happiness is a popular psychology topic and the consensus of several gurus has been that we humans are wired to be most content when our lives are focused on love and work. Love can mean all forms of intimate social interaction, and work can mean any regular organized effort toward a valued goal.
One promising way to maximize happiness is to strive, together, toward the valued goal of improving the most intimate relationship in your life. Learning how to make one another happy can be seen as a valued goal for anyone in relationships.
Happiness in a relationship can be approached using five skills. Improvement in these skills is noticeable and measurable; progress can generate increased satisfaction quickly. Framing and sharing these skills to improve the quality of your relationship can enhance bonding.
1. Listening — Really, Truly Listening
Deep inside we all crave the undivided attention of someone who puts us first. True listening is a gift that nourishes and heals the other person. It’s not easy and it requires ignoring all the other distractions, which include our own feelings, thoughts and judgments.
Mirroring the other person’s posture, facial expression and vocal tone and rhythms will show your partner you are truly listening. Author Harville Hendrix describes the benefits and techniques of this process in detail in his book, Getting The Love You Want.
2. Asking for What You Want
This requires knowing what you want, which is not as obvious as it may seem. It also requires breaking a lot of bad habits, like assuming you should get what you want automatically; complaining about not getting it automatically; or using a variety of manipulative strategies to get what you want without having to ask. The art of asking for what you want – in a way that makes it easy for the other person to give – is my definition of assertiveness.
3. Trying New Things Together
Whether it is in the bedroom or on the ski slopes, this is a practice that can enrich any relationship. It will probably begin with one of you asking and the other listening. But after you try this “new thing” together, it is important for both of you to share your reactions so the dance of mutual learning can be a skill you build together.
4. Expressing Gratitude Towards Each Other
Expressing and accepting gratitude is a natural tool for improving relationships, and not just your most intimate relationship. Making “thank you” sincere is an art involving creativity and empathy. Otherwise it can become a relatively meaningless routine. It can even be perceived as sarcastic. Expressing gratitude, even silently, is meant to be uplifting. But finding ways to express it outwardly is even more important for your relationship.
5. Showing a Lot of Affection
If done with creativity and empathy and learning will make the other one person feel good, loved and cared for. This does involve effort because you, when you are in a relationship, should care enough to do it well. Of course, seek feedback to find out how the caring behavior worked for the other person.
These can be practiced throughout the lifetime of a relationship. I, personally, guarantee that you will both be happier.
This guest article originally appeared on YourTango.com: 5 Ways To Be Happier In Your Relationship (Without Going To Therapy).