When we talk about our habits, we have a tendency to talk about a “bad habit” that we believe needs to change. Why is that?
What about the good or helpful habits?
Typically, we think we don’t have much control over our habits. We think habits occur without conscious thought. While it is true that habits are behaviors slowly acquired over time, it does not mean we don’t have control over them. So if we can control them, that means we can change ‘bad’ habits into ‘good’ ones.
Do you know what behaviors you engage in that are helpful to your marriage or relationship?
In this blog, we’ll explore the 5 habits that happy couples have in common. There might even be a few you didn’t realize you already do!
Psychologist and couples expert, Dr. John Gottman, says there are 7 habits that help make marriages work. One of the principles he discusses is nurturing fondness.
Whether it is through holding hands while walking, a shoulder squeeze while sitting on the couch, or a quick brush of your partner’s hair or back as you walk past, these are all ways to connect and demonstrate fondness to your spouse.
Happily married couples are constantly reminding one another of their love and affection through touch, to the point that it is a habit they do not even think about.
Does this mean you have to make-out in public? Of course not, but think about if there are other moments where you can make small points of contact to express your love and commitment.
In counseling, one way I can tell if a couple is going to “make it,” is their level of respect for one another.
Happy couples allow their partners to influence them. They trust their judgement and allow them to have equal input during situations. Couples who do not respect each other frequently scoff at the other when one suggests an idea to solve a problem, as if to imply their partner is not capable of giving a useful suggestion.
Happy couples trust their partners and know they each bring unique strengths to the table. They truly desire the opinion and input of their spouse because they know they are part of a team working together toward a common goal. Not only that, but they are proud to even be seen with their partner because they believe they have a “good catch” and want to be associated with them.
Regular Date Nights
Couples who have long-lasting marriages are in the habit of making their relationship a priority. They schedule dates nights on a weekly (or extremely consistent) basis.
Date night does not mean you have to hire a babysitter either!
I knew one couple who regularly announced date night in front of the children. They would begin saying, “I can’t wait until Thursday, because it’s Date Night for your mother and I.” So much so, that their kids knew the rules and that they were not allowed to interrupt Mom and Dad for 2 hours. To the children, date night = adult only time. The older children would watch the younger kids (or parents waited until younger kids were in bed), while Mom and Dad sat on a candlelit back porch talking about their dreams and munching on their private stash of sweet treats.
When couples know they have something to look forward to, they feel more secure in their relationship. When they are in the habit of not making plans on Thursday nights because that has forever been designated as Date Night, something changes in their relationship… and it’s almost always for the better.
Argue… constructively? How is that possible? How can any argument be positive or constructive?
Believe it or not happily married couples do have arguments. The difference is in how they argue. When happy couples argue, they avoid blame and discuss their own personal feelings. They focus on the problem rather than the person they are upset with.
For example they might say, “I feel exhausted watching the kids when you’re out Tuesday nights. I don’t know how much longer I can keep up with that and my side business. Can we figure out a solution?” Instead of saying, “You’re so selfish. You don’t even think about what I need to do for my business! How can you keep leaving me with the kids like this?!”
When couples are able to separate the problem from the person, the argument changes from a hurtful battle into a heated discussion which finds solutions.
Next time you’re in a disagreement, practice developing the habit of focusing on the broader issue rather than on what your spouse did wrong.
This one takes more practice and is an extension of constructive arguments. When having a serious discussion, it is important to clearly express your desires or expectations about a situation.
Happy couples are not fearful of sharing their desires with their partners, because they know their partner will hear their concerns and work toward finding a solution.
This idea can also be used when discussing household chores and responsibilities. Couples often develop patterns (or habits) over time in which they complete the same household chores, as if it were “their job.” This is not necessarily a problem, unless the couple has not defined clear expectations about how they want their home to be run.
Happy couples don’t always have evenly distributed responsibilities, but rather what I think is most important is that both spouses are in agreement about what those specific responsibilities are.
Additionally, happy couples are in the habit of viewing chores as a means of showing love. Take time with your partner to discuss chores you hate and chores you enjoy. Talk about the chores that you are comfortable taking off of your partner’s responsibility. Discuss what responsibilities are okay for you to share and which are better kept under one person’s watch.
As long as everything is clear and everyone is in agreement, you can create whatever system works best for you and your family. Clarity is key!
If you’re concerned that you don’t see enough of these habits in your own marriage, don’t loose hope just yet! All of these can be practiced, developed, and eventually be added to your good habit repertoire.
Try focusing on one area for just one week and then add another the following week, and so on. Before you know it, you’ll be in a marriage full of respect, clarity, date nights, constructiveness and to top it off, you won’t be able to keep your hands off one another!
Concerned about your marriage or a friend’s marriage? Learn more about how to get help.