Most of us want to believe the fairy tale we grew up with: that two people can fall in love, get married and live happily ever after—or some variation of that. Some of us do live that fairy tale, but most of us struggle with the “happily ever after” part. It’s not that we don’t desire it, but rather that we don’t know how to do it, and we certainly don’t know how to sustain it over any period of time.
So permit me to offer some suggestions about some of the more important behaviors that are required if you want that lovin’ feeling to last into the future:
- Choose peace over feeling irritated. It’s empowering to choose being loving and peaceful instead of responding to an irritation or disappointment with an angry, reactive or judgmental response.
- Listen for the longing behind your partner’s complaints. You’ll hear the important issue that way.
- Do one thing each day that would help your partner feel more valued, appreciated or cherished.
- Good communication requires more than talking. Most people are very good talkers and extremely poor listeners. To listen effectively asks you to hear without defending, explaining, counter-criticizing or interrupting the other person. (All of those behaviors communicate that I don’t value what you are saying, by the way.)
- I must remove my reactivity, defensiveness, hostility or sarcasm from our dialogues. I must refrain from threatening the relationship, from put-downs, belittling words, nitpicking or being disrespectful. I must learn to express my hurt, anger and frustrations in a more skillful manner, and I must get good at self-editing. No one does well when they feel judged or criticized more than they feel appreciated or respected.
- Happy couples make their relationship a top priority in their lives. They don’t spend their most vital hours consistently preoccupied with other concerns or activities—or too tired.
- What kind of touch do you want more of? What kind of touch makes you feel closer or more connected? This is a conversation that needs to happen between people who are intimate with each other, because the right kind of touch keeps people closer. It’s also appropriate to talk about what kind of touch is unwelcome or does not make you feel closer.
- Be willing to be the leader in your relationship—the person looking out for the overall welfare of the partnership, and of the people within the partnership. That means it’s up to me to warm things up between us, to grow the connection and the happiness between us, and I can’t take out my negative energy on you.
- Make sure you do periodic repair work by apologizing when you say or do something that hurts or offends.
- Pick your battles. You’re not going to win every one, so fight only for those things that matter the most.
- Add surprise and variety, so you don’t fall into routines that deaden relationship spontaneity and aliveness.