Happy Couples: What’s Their Secret?
By Kimberly Dawn Neumann
How is it that some couples seem to stay starry-eyed for years, and others let their sizzle, um… fizzle? Well, it appears that successful chemistry sustainers develop healthy coupled-up habits which allow them to keep their love alive and kicking. “People can have a lot of trouble staying close,” says Joyce Catlett, author of Sex and Love in Intimate Relationships. “They get into relationships and think they’re automatically going to know how to make everything work, but figuring out how to stay passionate together is really a skill.” But luckily, these are skills that anyone can learn. Here are six habits that you’d do well to adopt if you want your date to become your happily-ever-after mate.
Habit #1: Catch romance where you can
“You may start out with champagne and roses, but the likelihood of being able to sustain that feeling with a busy schedule is pretty unlikely,” says JoAnn Magdoff, Ph.D., a New York City-based psychotherapist. Successful couples learn to build a bubble of romance at unexpected times – during their daily commute, while doing laundry – and in low-impact ways, whether that be a long, lingering smooch or just holding hands. In other words, the next time you hear yourself say “Oh, look, we’ve got 15 minutes to ourselves,” make use of it—that’s what keeps the spark alive.
Habit #2: Fight fair
Believe it or not, learning to fight right is an important part of keeping chemistry alive. Why? Because if you are constantly cutting each other down, it’s hard to feel mutually amorous. “There is no such thing as a relationship without disagreements,” says David Wygant, author of Always Talk to Strangers. “But if there is an understanding that your partner can come to you with any dissension without being attacked, you will have an honest relationship comprised of ‘open discussions’ rather than ‘fights.’” Debra Tobias, who has been happily married for almost 10 years to her husband Steve, agrees. “Steve and I have learned to listen to each other when we’re upset and we admit when we’re wrong,” says Tobias. “We also make a rule of never, ever saying ‘I told you so’ no matter how much we might want to say it.” The result is that their chemistry doesn’t wane because they never let their arguments escalate to a personal level. Focus on the issue at hand instead of throwing verbal punches.
Habit #3: Nurture your separate selves
Going off to your book club when your sweetie’s out golfing isn’t a sign you two are drifting apart. On the contrary, developing individual interests allows for a richer life as a couple. By taking little “couple breaks,” you gain a greater appreciation of the gifts your partner brings to your life and you have more to offer as well. “It’s very sexy to be independent sometimes,” says Magdoff. “You feel better about yourself and you’re less demanding of your partner when you’re together.” After all, taking some personal responsibility for your own well-being relieves the other person of the pressure to “provide” happiness—so go ahead and nurture some solo adventures. That’ll also keep each of you stocked with plenty of adventures to chat about, which also builds your bond.
Habit #4: Take on a project together
Separate interests aside, exploring new ground together is also important since it strengthens your history of shared experiences. Jo Smith and her husband of four years found this out when they committed to running their first 10K together. “We were training together, carbo-loading and hydrating together, running the race together and ultimately succeeding together when we both finished,” says Smith. “It brought a whole new level of closeness to our relationship because of the time we spent learning as a duo during this endeavor.” Couples who take on adventures together get a sense of daring and accomplishment that can really kick up their chemistry!
Habit #5: Don’t let your sex life slide
No doubt about it, couples with healthy sex lives have no problem keeping chemistry cooking. (That whole “couples’ sex lives naturally fade over time” excuse? Not true.) The trick to injecting more electricity into a lagging love life has to do with trying new things—sure, it can be easy to work on tricks and techniques when you first meet, but people’s preferences can, and do, change over time. “In interviewing people on the topic of sexuality, it became clear that the couples who were the most satisfied sexually were also the ones who were open to some experimentation,” says Catlett. This isn’t to say you suddenly have to become a wild thing, though. Even returning to the basics you may have abandoned along the way – lots of kissing and eye contact, for example – can make the usual encounter feel very different… and much more intimate.
Habit #6: Engage in some mutual admiration
In order for chemistry between two people to thrive, there needs to be mutual respect. “It’s about putting yourself in the role of an observer of your partner,” says Magdoff. “Watch them “perform” – I’m not saying they need to do a song and dance for you – just pay attention to the everyday things that remind you why you find them so special.” Then, make it a point to lob compliments their way. “A good exercise is to occasionally create a mental list of the qualities you dig about your partner, and to occasionally share one of your thoughts with the one you love,” says Wygant. Because the reality is, you’ll always want to be around someone who thinks you’re fantastic.
Kimberly Dawn Neumann is a New York City-based writer whose work has appeared in such publications as Cosmopolitan, Redbook, and Fitness.
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