At the core of all relationships is joy. Joy from the small things — like sharing a smile over coffee in the morning — all the way to the happiness of embarking on life's greatest adventures together.
After all, 94% of people believe joy is more intense when shared with others, according to the #ShareTheJoy consumer study by Reddi-wip. But sometimes it's easy to get too busy or too tired or too whatever to maintain a healthy amount of happiness in a relationship. In fact, 67% of people in the same survey said they don’t make enough time to celebrate everyday moments with their loved ones.
And that's where things can get ugly.
Resentment happens, you fight, you forget how much potential for happiness there is in your relationship. So with Valentine's Day on the horizon, isn't it time you made the effort to find that joy again?
Here are some expert tips from Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, from her research for The How of Happiness and The Myths of Happiness, on how to bring more joy to your relationship.
1. Help Your Partner Achieve His or Her Ideal Self
"Researchers argue that our partners come to reflect what we see in them and elicit from them—a finding with the lovely name, the Michelangelo effect. Like a sculptor, we have the capacity to influence and mold our partners such that they are able to realize their ideal selves—their highest and deepest ambitions for themselves. Thus, it’s critical to do everything we can to believe in, support, and validate our partner’s values, goals, and dreams. For example, help your shy girlfriend become more outgoing by guiding dinner party conversations to her favorite topic. As a result, she will feel understood and gratified, and both you and your partner—as well as your love—will become stronger."
2. Use the Power of Touch
"A pat on the back, a squeeze of the hand, a hug, an arm around the shoulder—such gestures are often quick and inconspicuous, but they are not inconsequential. Indeed, the science of touch suggests that frequent physical contact can improve and nurture our relationships. The centrality of physical contact to human life—not to mention animal life—is unquestioned, yet it’s remarkably undervalued. Research shows that introducing more touching and affection on a daily basis will go a long way in rekindling warmth and tenderness, help couples communicate better, and reduce stress hormones, discomfort, and distress."
3. Make the Most of Your Partner’s Good News
"Those who truly share in their partner's successes and accomplishments have been found to be happier and more joyful. So, when your spouse wins an honor, congratulate her or him and celebrate. According to the #ShareTheJoy survey, 86% of people said even sharing a celebratory treat on a good news occasions brings them joy. Passing on and rejoicing in good news leads you to relish and soak up the present moment, as well as to foster your connection with your honey. Researchers advise that you should express pride in your partner – pat him on the back, remind him how hard he’s worked for this moment, and imagine how impressed his parents or mentors might be."
4. Share your dreams, rituals, goals, and values with each other
"What thriving relationships have in common is a deep sense of shared rituals, dreams, and goals. These all are elements that connect us to each other and create a singular inner life shared by just the two of us. We grow together, explore new directions and take risks together, challenge our assumptions together, and take responsibility together. Every week, try to do at least one thing that supports your partner’s roles (e.g., as parent, skier, manager, chef) and dreams (to travel abroad, to climb the corporate ladder, to go back to school, and so on). The goal should be to honor and respect each other and each other’s life dreams and interests, even if you don’t share them all."
5. Express admiration, appreciation, and affection
"One of the key conclusions of two decades of research is that happy relationships are characterized by a ratio of positive to negative affect of 5 to 1. So, make raising your positive affect ratio your weekly goal. You can do this, first, by increasing the number of times you show affection to your partner. Second, communicate your admiration and gratitude more often directly, such as by offering genuine praise. Third, increase respect, value, and admiration for your partner. One way to do this is by writing out attributes that initially attracted you to your partner or that you appreciate right now (and why). Another way is by reflecting on a good time in your relationship, such as when you first fell in love or when you successfully endured a difficult time together."