BE THE BETTER HALF
There’s only so much you can do to help Hubby improve. You also have to look beyond his faults and let go of your frustrations to build a happier relationship.
Happy couples experience all the moans and headaches that are part of any relationship, but they’ve developed a way of relating to each other that kindles and sustains their intimacy, despite their problems. Here are the most important lessons you need to remember for your own happily ever after.
• Happy couples know Prince Charming and Cinderella fought over TV channels.
Happy pairs go through phases when they regard each other as baffling, boring, even repugnant. But just because you feel mildly homicidal towards someone doesn’t mean you don’t love them!
Many couples say their biggest love struggle – and ultimate victory – was readjusting their (rosily naive) expectations. “I used to think love meant I’d never feel lonely, scared, dissatisfied or even unhappy again,” laughs Hannah, 28. “What a fairy tale. My husband and I experience occasional disharmony, but it’s part of the rich texture of our love. And, that attitude has helped us develop the patience, trust and emotional self-reliance to get through the rough patches.”
Relationships go through phases. Once the feeling of elation is gone and you realise your husband isn’t perfect, you need to be able to negotiate with him and see his good and bad points. You have to learn to listen, instead of relying on everything being glowy forever.
• Happy couples turn fighting into an art form (and enjoy making up afterwards).
There is no such thing as an intimate relationship that doesn’t involve an occasional screamer. Rows don’t mean you don’t care, they mean you do.
Research shows what keeps couples together or breaks them up is not how much they love each other or whether they have a good sex life, but how they handle their problems. Happy couples use emotional friction as a form of communication. They work as a team. They don’t get stuck in “it’s my way or no way” ruts. They find an “our way”.
“Not all fights will be resolved,” warns Chris, 29, a teacher. “Sometimes we argue and sometimes we just accept our differences and negotiate.”
• Happy couples sulk, rage and then forgive.
Forgiving and forgetting are necessary for a couple to be happy. If you can say to your husband, “I’m really sorry we had that fight”, you are taking steps towards dealing with whatever the problem was.
To let go of minor grievances is also to forgive. Jan, 28, knows her husband will forget to switch off lights, be late for most appointments, never clean the bath and eat the last chocolate in the box.
“But,” she says, “he knows I’ll hog the duvet, lock us out of the house regularly and also eat the last chocolate in the box. We could bicker over these things, but it’s too exhausting. Anyway, the good stuff outweighs the bad.”
No one is saying it’s easy to forgive. However, isn’t it just as hard – and less worthwhile – to hold on to anger?
• Happy couples laugh together.
A recent study suggests that 70 per cent of a couple’s satisfaction may depend on making each other laugh and feel optimistic. A shared sense of humour helps highlight similarities and strengthen the intimate bond. Likewise, there is nothing like a well-timed joke to defuse a tense moment.
• Happy couples say “thank you” and “please”.
Love should be a mutual appreciation club. This means treating your husband better than your business associates and friends. It also means remembering to say “please” and “thank you”, even “I understand you”. Think about it. How often has your day been uplifted by an act of kindness – a cup of tea in bed or a lift to the train station?
• Happy couples don’t kiss and tell (about her smelly feet and his dreadful snoring).
Very few people can handle the total truth. Which is why experts preach, ahem, selective honesty with your partner. “It’s a judgment call,” says Dr Bonnie Jacobson, founder of the New York Institute for Psychological Change. “Are you baring your soul to hurt the other person or because you believe being honest will help strengthen your bond?”
And remember, there are some things in a relationship you should never reveal to anyone else, even your friends. Gossiping about your husband shows a lack of respect for him, and one of the most important elements of a happy relationship is respect.