Want to feel more connected with your partner? Here’s what it takes to build a healthy relationship.
If you’re questioning, “How can I make my relationship happy?” know that happy relationships aren’t attributed to luck. It takes continual effort and commitment from both parties to want to be together.
A “happy relationship” is what makes a connection thrive. It’s the common goal you each have for what you want out of your relationship.
Most healthy relationships share a few things in common. Knowing these “truths” can be the key to maintaining a long, happy relationship.
What’s the foundation for how to be happy in a relationship?
Experts agree that a solid foundation is built on communication and trust.
Neena Lall, LCSW, MPH, and Grouport therapist based in New York City, says a happy relationship is built on communication and articulating what makes you happy. “You and your partner get to decide together what a happy relationship looks like for you,” she says.
“From my time working with patients, I’ve observed that happiness in a relationship relates to balance, communication, love, and mutual respect,” says Dr. Gregory Scott Brown, psychiatrist and author of “The Self-Healing Mind.”
“Couples who are happy do disagree from time to time, but they never lose their core mutual respect for each other,” he says.
Here’s a look at some other hallmarks of happy and healthy relationships.
1. Maintain a realistic perspective of committed relationships
The feeling of butterflies in your stomach won’t last forever. “All relationships have their ups and downs,” says Brown. Expecting everything to be sunshine and roses isn’t realistic.
Angela Amias, a psychotherapist in Iowa and a nationally recognized expert on relationships, says keeping a realistic perspective helps you appreciate each moment together and helps you grow together through the hard times.
2. Continually ‘tone’ the relationship
“To tone a relationship means being intimately attuned to it and to care for it regularly, in the same way you would care for a living being,” says Amias.
You can think of it as “resistance” training. Couples may use hard times and challenges to exercise, practice, and get repetitions in to strengthen relationship fitness consistently.
3. Regularly spend time together
For relationships to grow and develop, you need to regularly spend time together. “Quality time is essential to a relationship because it nurtures the emotional (and often physical) connection,” says Rebecca Phillips, a counselor in Frisco, Texas.
It’s important to spend time together when you’re in long-distance relationships, too, says Phillips.
Austin, Texas, psychologist Krista Jordan adds, “If you live in different cities, or someone travels a lot for work, that can be just fine if you have ways of feeling connected despite not spending time together.”
Ideally, couples need to reserve space in their schedules for quality time to build positive memories, says Jordan.
4. Regularly enjoy autonomy
Spending time apart can also be an important component in a happy relationship. “Different couples have different needs for autonomy. As long as both partners are happy with the level of autonomy versus interdependency, there’s not a problem,” says Jordan.
“Time apart can nurture a relationship by infusing novelty, or it can just feel lonely,” Jordan explains. “Each couple needs to discuss this openly and make sure that the right balance is being struck.”
5. Appreciate each other’s differences
Being around someone different from you can be healthy for your relationship, Jordan says.
“Try to ask yourself what the upside could possibly be to how your partner is different,” she adds. “Challenge yourself to see it as a plus, at least in certain situations.”
6. Don’t expect (or try to force) a partner to change
“You can’t force your partner to change, but you can communicate how you feel,” says Brown. The only person you can change is yourself.
Brown explains that effectively communicating with your partner will help your partner make a conscious decision to change on their own.
Omar Ruiz, a marriage and family therapist in Wellesley, Massachusetts, agrees with Brown and says people in relationships can influence their partner.
“Someone who is into fitness and health can’t force their partner to hold the same passion toward it, but their consistency and drive toward living a healthier lifestyle can certainly influence their partner to consider making adjustments to their well-being,” explains Ruiz.
7. Pick your battles
Conflict can be a part of a healthy, committed relationship. But it’s also important to accept that some battles cannot be won.
“Ask yourself, ‘Will this matter in 10 years?’ If the answer is no, then let it go,” Jordan says. It’s just not worth stressing about the small stuff, she adds.
8. Be connoisseurs of communication and listening techniques
Communication is the key to all relationships, and if you cannot communicate effectively with your partner, your voice will not be heard, says Ruiz.
Phillips suggests learning effective communication strategies to use during conflicts.
9. Savor honesty
“Honestly is actually the bedrock of intimacy,” says Jordan. [To] feel deeply connected with someone you can’t withhold information or tell lies.
When talking about honesty, “it helps us feel more deeply loved when our partner knows us and all of our flaws,” Jordan says.
10. Outward signs of internal respect for each partner
Offering your partner respect every day shows them that they can trust you and that you’re worth investing in, says Jordan.
“Taking your partner’s feelings and opinions into account and making accommodations for them is a great way to show outward signs of respect,” Phillips says.
John Gottman, author of “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work,” says a healthy relationship includes partners who:
- don’t take themselves too seriously (can laugh at themselves) and respond to “repair attempts” after fights
- each use “we” more than “I” when talking about their relationship
Here are a few more signs you might notice in happy relationships, according to our experts. Each partner:
- actively plans and does things they know makes the other happy
- don’t publicly question another’s choices
- demonstrates compromise
Strong, healthy relationships can add immensely to your quality of life and benefit your mental health too, by:
- fortifying your overall mental wellness and self-esteem
- providing in-house partner support
- lower anxiety and depression symptoms
- increasing empathy
- increasing optimism and hope in romantic partnerships
Building a happy, healthy relationship takes effort and commitment, along with a mutual desire to want to be together. According to experts, the foundation of being happy in a relationship is built on communication and trust.
Relationship experts agree there are many qualities that happy relationships have in common. From spending quality time together to picking your battles, happy couples take time to put in the work.
Feeling supported and emotionally safe are just a few signs of happy relationships. Having a strong foundation can also benefit your mental health too.
If you’re worried about your relationship, a therapist can offer you guidance on what might help. Consider speaking with a licensed professional if your relationship seems too overwhelming to handle as a couple.