Until I was 30, I believed that a happy and healthy couple was JUST MADE OUT OF PURE LOVE. I thought that love at first sight could lead to eternal love and that there would be no work needed to maintain a healthy and happy relationship forever. Well, I was wrong. Of course, finding the RIGHT PARTNER for you is essential. But even so, it will only make it SOMEWHAT EASIER to FACE ADVERSITY TOGETHER. But it won’t make the challenges disappear magically.
Becoming a healthy and happy couple comes down to building the right set of habits over time, both on an individual and on a couple’s level. Some of the most important habits include communicating openly and honestly, respecting your partner’s perspective, and making time for each other.
From being a strong, single woman in my early 30s to building a strong relationship, it feels to me like I’ve come a long way over the past few years. No matter how harmonious your relationship may be, cultivating the right habits is what will help your couple stand the test of time and remain healthy and happy over the long term.
Without further due, here are the 30 HABITS OF COUPLES who are in a STRONG and HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP.
The HABITS Of HEALTHY Couples
Healthy can mean a few things. On the one hand, a “healthy” couple is one that “functions really well” and is set to pass the test of time, one could say.
On the other hand, healthy also is about lifestyle. The couple could be “functioning well” but having unhealthy habits with regards to food, exercising, work… Hence decreasing the couple’s quality of living overall.
Although it may seem like nothing, over time, the impact of those UNHEALTHY couple habits will lead to pain and, most probably, tensions. That’s why we are going to tackle both types of habits here.
Strong Couples’ Relationship Habits
1. Always Respect Your Partner.
One of the most important habits to cultivate as a couple is to always respect your partner, flaws included. Studies have shown that contempt is one of the most toxic behaviors for a couple. So much so, that it is one of the main criteria used to predict whether a couple will remain together in the long-term or not.
It is sometimes difficult to understand that your partner may have radically different ways and thoughts. After all, you get on so well that it seems impossible you could differ so much on any topic, right? Well, your partner is still an individual with a very different personal story. It’s only natural that there are some mysterious parts to his or her behavior. The quicker you accept and respect that, the better off your couple will be.
2. Stop Criticising.
According to the Gottman Institute, alongside contempt, there are 3 other horsemen, one of which is criticism. Here, you have to differentiate between voicing constructive critique on a certain issue or situation versus criticizing your partner as a whole.
When we feel frustrated in life, some of us tend to find the cause of our frustration and project it onto other people’s behaviors. That’s when we tend to generalize and make it all about how flawed our partner is, and how this is in the way of our happiness.
Doing this is very toxic to your couple. Instead, voice your critique on specific issues or situations, not about WHO your partner is.
A good way to go about it is to always present your willingness to find a solution, if possible in the form of compromise, whenever you are offering criticism. This ensures that you are not rejecting your partner in the process.
3. Don’t Act Defensively.
Defensiveness is the next horsemen. Defensiveness is often blaming in disguise. To counter this horseman, you have to get used to taking responsibility whenever appropriate.
4. Stop Stonewalling.
Some of us may find a different way to cope when confronted with a difficult situation with their partner. They will start building a wall to protect themselves from feeling overwhelmed by the situation. That means they will stop listening, engaging, and trying to find a solution.
Stonewalling is the fourth horsemen and, though it may seem understandable at times, should never become part of your habits as a partner or a couple.
It is better to signalize to your partner that, right now, you are feeling overwhelmed and need a break, in order to be able to recover and approach the situation better later on.
Stay present and keep engaging. Creating a distance by stonewalling is a dangerous path that can ultimately lead to separation.
5. Communicate Openly And Honestly, About Everything.
Your relationship should be a safe haven. Learning to communicate openly and honestly is one of the most important habits you can build as a couple, as long as you watch out for the four horsemen mentioned above.
A GREAT WAY to quickly test your relationship on this habit could be talking openly about sex. What do you prefer, what doesn’t appeal to you, and how does your partner feel about it? Sex is often a tricky topic, and it can be a great way to make progress for you and your partner to open up on that topic.
If you feel like there is something that you cannot tell your partner, it may be a red flag that you should start working on.
For a long time, I felt like there were many things I could not tell my partner for fear of hurting them or the relationship. Over time, however, I found out that NOT speaking about these subjects was what lead to separation, eventually. Secrets grew and ended up creating distance between us. Sometimes, ridiculous secrets that really did not need to be.
6. Listen Without Judging.
You may be good at reading people, but it doesn’t mean that you’re always going to be right. Most importantly, you may be an empath and feel when something isn’t going well, but that doesn’t mean you know the reasons why things are this way.
Always start with a beginner’s mind. Don’t assume you know what the person is about to tell you. Don’t assume you know what they think or feel. Listen actively to what they are trying to tell you. And do so without judging, so as to really leave them the space to talk.
7. Make Time For Each Other.
We’re constantly surrounded by distractions. Our work can be intense. We get bombarded by news and changes every day. We can travel, learn, play… But do we actively block out quality time for our partner?
When we have been living in the same home for a while, we tend to think that we spend time together anyways. But time does not equal intentional quality time.
Make sure you communicate and find out what quality time means for both of you. Watching a TV series together may be enough for one of you, while the other may feel like this is more to be counted as “individual” time as it doesn’t feel much like interacting and sharing a moment.
There should be no judgment going on here, just an effort to find a compromise that works for both of you.
8. Saying the 3 Magical Words.
Do you tell your partner “I love you”? It doesn’t need to be on a daily basis, but when you feel like it, say it.
Reiterating your love for each other is part of the reinforcement.
9. Recognize Recurring Patterns and Break Them When Necessary.
What has helped my partner and I tremendously so far is to recognize a situation that keeps repeating. If there is a problem that bothers us and keeps coming up, again and again, then we know we have to do something different and think out of the box.
For instance, we were trying to change our diet together, for the better. But, my partner often felt like doing exceptions, and this was leading to some tension because I would feel like I had extra temptations to resist. However, I didn’t want to restrict his freedom to eat whatever he wanted.
This issue was coming up again and again. Until he came up with an idea. He offered to always cook and eat one meal a day together, which would be healthy. This helped me a lot, as I know we are always going to share one great meal together, and that’s enough to keep me off temptations, most of the time.
10. Present Sincere Apologies.
Apologizing plays a big role in relationships. And when you apologize, you have to be sincere about it. The thing is, you may be RIGHT about something, but still have to APOLOGIZE about how you handled the situation or hurting your partner’s feelings.
Only a deep understanding of this rule will lead to a sound and healthy relationship. I even sometimes apologize for being a little rough around the edges when I’m having a bad day. I know my partner is not the reason why I feel that way, but I still end up projecting it onto him.
The good thing is that he also apologizes when he has a bad day. It works both ways.
Healthy Couples’ Lifestyle Habits
11. Lead By Example.
Avoid preaching, forcing, or doing any sort of emotional blackmail. It will only give a superficial motivation to your partner. True change comes from within.
So, instead, seek to INSPIRE. Change your habits for the better, FOR YOURSELF.
We often become more like our partner. So that in itself will do part of the work.
12. Cook Healthy Meals Together, Regularly.
I’ve mentioned this point above already. Cooking and eating one healthy meal a day with your partner is not only good for your body but also fun. And it guarantees that, at least once a day, you’ll feed your body important nutrients.
My diet drastically improved when we decided to make it a rule. The ripple effect was amazing.
13. Take Walks Together.
Walking is one of the most sustainable healthy exercises you can do at any age. Taking a walk with your partner is a great way to get moving but also have a great chat. It’s good for your mental health, too. Especially when you make sure to get some sunlight.
Normally, walking makes it a little bit more difficult to look at your phone and hence can really foster deeper conversations. Definitely recommend!
14. Share An Active Moment Outside in Nature Once a Month.
Besides just having a walk, I recommend having a longer hike outside in nature at least once a month.
For one, being out in the green is known to be extremely healthy for us. And also, I feel like it creates a different connection with your partner.
Over the summer, we were able to spend time at the lakes and in the mountains. This was incredible quality time, and the breathtaking views made it difficult to stay stressed or keep watching the phone.
Make sure you get this at least once a month.
15. Focus On The Positive.
Focusing on the positive aspects of life is a huge quality. When one or both partners tend to always focus on the negative, it’s time to do something about it.
It’s all just a habit. Train yourselves to not spend too much time complaining about stuff. When something bad happens to you, always find at least ONE GOOD thing that will come out of it. Do it together.
16. Meditate Together.
By now, most of us know about the amazing benefits of meditation.
In my opinion, the experience you get from meditation gets even better and stronger when you do it with your partner or a small group of people.
As a couple, putting in place a daily meditation practice can both strengthen your bond AND keep you accountable with regards to this healthy habit.
17. Support Your Partners’ Healthy Choices…
One friend of mine once told me his girlfriend was always negative and criticizing him when he was trying to live a healthier life.
If he wanted to improve his diet, she was making fun of him. If he wanted to start running, she said it was useless…
One day, he confronted her and asked her why she was always belittling his effort to live a healthier life.
Her answer: she felt left behind, as she did not intend to improve her lifestyle herself. So, in order not to feel bad, she was criticizing his choices.
This partnership didn’t last long…
You can decide NOT to participate in every healthy choice your partner makes. That’s totally OK. But being unsupportive or even critical about your partner’s willingness to become healthier is a NO GO.
18. …But Also Respect Your Partner’s Right To Indulge.
The same goes for the other way, though. Putting in place healthy habits can be quite difficult. It’s OK for your partner to indulge from time to time. Or even to live a completely unhealthy lifestyle, as long as he/she’s not dragging you with him/her.
If you decide to quit chocolate, you have no right to force this decision onto your partner. Let them be. And learn not to be mad at them for doing things differently.
19. Massage Each Other, Regularly.
This couples’ habit has really several benefits to it.
First, massaging your body is very healthy. According to recent studies, massaging helps revitalize your fascia, which, when it is flexible and healthy, has various benefits for your body and health.
Of course, massages also help you release stress and relax. That’s generally good for you and your partner, but even better when you associate this relaxing effect with your partner.
Did you know that stress can negatively impact your libido and sex life? That’s where massaging each other can create some sort of ripple effect. The stress release can awaken your libido again, and, at the same time, touching or being touched by your partner can be an erotic activity by itself.
Definitely a great habit to put into place. Make time for it. And don’t be lazy, this is a win-win activity.
20. Have a Day Free of Electronics Once a Month.
That’s probably a habit we should all put into place. But I consider it to be particularly beneficial for couples, since it creates a great setting for quality time, away from screens and other distractions.
That’s the perfect day to play games, chat for hours, or go out and do some outdoor activities. This time away from electronics may surprise you. Suddenly, a whole new world of potential healthy activities will show up.
The HABITS Of HAPPY Couples
21. Be Grateful, Together.
According to scientific studies, practicing gratitude helps improve your mental health and level of happiness.
I, personally, find that it helps the couple tremendously to practice gratitude together. How often do you tell your partner how grateful you are to have them in your life? How often are you grateful for your friends, for great moments, etc.?
If you tend to be a rather negative couple, start by introducing 5 min. a day to share the things you are both grateful for in your life. It could be things to be grateful for your partner, yourself, your job, your health, your environment… If you need ideas to get started, here are 45 Gratitude Journal Prompts for Recovery.
22. Support Your Partner’s Dream(s).
Everyone has dreams, some crazier than others. Whatever the case may be for your partner, it will probably affect your couple negatively if you go against his/her dreams in the long run.
If you feel like your partner’s dreams are crazy, it’s time for you to approach them from a different perspective, instead of just trying to block them out:
- You can always point to the challenges your partner will be facing, BUT try to do so without judgment and rather with the intention to be helpful.
- Try to genuinely help your partner break down his/her big dream into smaller, more realistic steps. Who knows, you may be surprised at what they’re able to achieve!
- Definitely drop any competitive behavior. If your partner wins, you win. It’s as simple as that. If you have trouble and feel jealous about your partner’s potential success, talk about it. It’s important that you remain honest and find a way to evolve.
23. Hug Each Other A Few Times Per Day.
Hugging has many more benefits than one may think, and it makes us happier.
There’s no easier, quicker way to release happiness hormones and improve your relationship with your partner!
Are you both hugging often enough?
24. Compliment Each Other.
Being positive and grateful is already a great basis for a couple. But be sure to compliment your partner often enough.
When you make the effort to compliment each other genuinely when there is something to compliment, it shows your partner that you are grateful for having them in your life. It can also help them love themselves more, and see themselves through your eyes.
25. Take Space For Yourself When Needed, Without Creating Distance.
Sometimes, we forget to spend some time alone when we’re in a relationship. But it’s important to know when and how to focus on yourself when you need it in a relationship.
Very often, we tend to forget ourselves and only recognize that we may need some space when it’s already too late. So we’re somehow angry at our partner when all we needed was actually for us to take some time out for ourselves.
Learn to recognize this pattern and to build in some alone time before you feel like you’re going to explode. That’s particularly important for introverts.
26. Stop Watching TV And Play Games Together Instead.
Watching TV is a habit that is actually detrimental to our mental and physical health when we overdo it.
Unfortunately, your TV can quickly become the go-to activity when you’re tired, stressed, or bored. You end up watching series after series with your partner and you stop actually interacting with each other.
There are a plethora of activities you could be doing instead of watching TV, but, in general, consider playing games instead. It’s fun, can make you laugh, and certainly will activate your brain as a bonus.
27. Keep Cultivating Your Friendships.
A happy couple still needs friendship. You can’t be everything to each other. Keep seeing your friends and maybe even building new friendships, both as a couple and as individuals. Though we don’t necessarily need many friends to be happy, at least one or two would be a must to make sure that you remain active as a social being.
28. Learn To Say “No”.
Some of us may find it hard to say no to their partner. But it’s important that you don’t start making sacrifices for the sake of your couple.
Although the ability to find good compromises is crucial, there is a limit to saying “yes”. When something really feels like a strong sacrifice to you, you must also learn to say no. If that’s one of your weaknesses, here’s another of my articles where you can find some tips to go through with it. I’ve written it for your work environment, but some of the tips could be useful in this case, too.
29. Relax Together.
Find activities that are relaxing and do them together. It’s important for you to see your partner as someone who is not stress-related. You can spend a day or evening at the spa, massage each other as suggested earlier, or read nice books in front of a woodfire at home (if you have one).
30. Keep an Eye (Or Two) On Your Sex Life.
Though a relationship certainly shouldn’t be defined by its sex life, it’s inevitably a part of it for most of us. I’d say, whatever you are going through, it’s most likely other couples are going through the same.
Issues in this field only really become problematic if it strongly affects at least one of you. But, generally, sex can be just as much hard work as other fields in your life. Just like love, it needs communication and… practice!
Open a dialogue with your partner and make sure to see sex as an inherent part of your life. You can decide how big or small this part should be, depending on the phase of life you are in.
I hope these 30 habits were useful to you and gave you some great ideas to get started and implement new, healthy habits as a couple.