Self / 08.06.2015

The 7 things happy couples do differently

By Claire Lavelle
Steal the secrets of happy couples who manage to survive the tough times


Rare is the couple whose relationship hasn’t been tested during the course of their lives together. But while many partnerships many simply crumble, what makes some able to face the tough times?

We all know them: happy couples who genuinely revel in each others’ company, who are each other’s number one supporter: the ones the iconic Ms. Bridget Jones would have dubbed ‘Smug Marrieds’. Lucky them, eh? Well, not so much luck as hard work, says relationship psychologist and author Susan Quilliam.

1 Happy couples… communicate

Successful couples don’t experience fewer setbacks than the rest of us, they just deal with them differently. ‘It’s important to keep talking when these ‘life events’ strike, no matter how anxious or tense you might feel,’ says Susan. ‘High-stress situations that are full of anger or fear can lead to a blame culture or one partner shutting down emotionally. Coming to a practical solution together helps strengthen and builds confidence in your partnership. It gives you a solid base of mutual support.’

2 Happy couples… check in with each other

Long-term relationships – or more specifically, the people in them – change, so don’t assume you know everything about your other half. ‘Don’t take your partner for granted,’ says Susan. ‘Beliefs or goals they held a couple of years ago may not be what they hold dear now. Check: have important goals changed? Are there things they’d like to explore but won’t, out of fear it might derail you both from your ‘grand plan’?’

3 Happy couples… show empathy and are self-aware

We all witness our parents disagreeing but it’s how they manage the ensuing emotions that effects how we in turn react to difficulties within our own relationships. ‘If your parents were able to ‘fight fair’ – it’s more likely you will too,’ says Christine. ‘But even if it was all-out war, you probably have a good idea of how hurtful that was, and how it’s something you’d rather not repeat. It’s this ability to stop and reflect, and think about how what’s going on effects your partner as well as you, that means you can take yourself out of the central thrust of the argument and get some perspective.’

4 Happy couples… stay physically close

This doesn’t necessarily mean sex, but that’s good too. Regular touching, hugs, kisses and hand-holding all help build and reinforce feelings of closeness. A recent report from the US, published in The Journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science, found those couples who had been married for more than 10 years and still described themselves as ‘intensely in love’ were also the couples who showed most affection towards each other.

5 Happy couples… share common values

‘Generally speaking, there are three indicators of how successful you’ll be as a couple,’ says Susan. ‘These are common interests, complementary personalities and similar values, which is, in my opinion, the most important of the three,’ says Susan. ‘Being constantly at war about the fundamental things in life that make you happy – family, friends, your work/life balance – is wearing and ultimately, rarely sustainable. These differences will grind a relationship down quickly.’

6 Happy couples… respect each other’s values

These pairings understand that they sometimes each have to do or put up with things they don’t like, because it makes the other person happy. ‘If the house is a mess and you don’t help tidy up because you’re not overly fussed, despite your partner’s obvious discomfort with the chaos, what you’re really saying is, your needs are not important to me,’ says Susan. ‘If, on the other hand, you get the vacuum cleaner out, you’re saying, I’ll help because you care about it and I love you.’

7 Happy couples… are committed

It sounds obvious, but you both have to want to be in the relationship to make it work. ‘You have to want to be part of this couple,’ says Christine. ‘You need to place a higher value on ‘we’ than on ‘I’,’ agrees Susan. ‘You have to show good will; to want to resolve issues and see them through.’

Think you’ve got some relationship advice to rival the pro’s? Tweet us @healthymag – we’d love to get your wisdom