WHAT MAKES A HAPPY RELATIONSHIP?
Hello everyone. In this article, I decided to do a “break-out session” away from my series on The Psychology of Success (please click the archive link to catch up on past articles), which I will resume in the next Lessons from the Lab newsletter.
Due to Valentine’s Day this week, I thought I would do a time out on relationships. Most of us probably think about our relationships and loved ones during this time of the year. After all, LOVE IS IN THE AIR! And the popular TV show, “The Bachelor” is on as well, and many of us watch with shock & awe as we observe these people try so hard to find true love. It is at times funny, dramatic, touching, and a bit weird all at the same time.
In my private practice as a psychologist, I would often see single people who were looking for love; and then those couples who had thought they found it – but were now falling out of it. Soooo….I thought, as a shrink, this week I would throw my “2 cents worth” into the discussion of what helps make a happy relationship.
#1. THE BEST PREDICTOR OF A HAPPY MARRIAGE
In my counseling practice, one of the most asked questions which singles would often ask is, “How can I find the right person?” But sometimes this question is missing the mark. More importantly, the question perhaps could be, “How can I become the right person?” Often times we are putting the cart before the horse and focusing on the wrong target – that is, thinking that being with the right person will make us happy. Not necessarily so!
According to many social and psychological studies, the best predictor of a happy marriage is this: Being Happily Single.
Many of you did not see that one coming, did you? You see, what relationships tend to do is to reveal who we really are on the inside. We can put on great make-up and a fab suit – but if we are sad, selfish, and sluggish on the inside; we will be even more sad, selfish, and sluggish in a marriage.
If you are single, the best way to ensure a happy future relationship, is to be happy right now as a single person. Create happiness. Do happy things. Happiness does not come from another person – it comes out of the happy-skill-sets we manufacture within ourselves. This is why the word happiness is akin to the word happenings – it is something we practice until we get good at it; like taking piano lessons or learning to play golf. You work at it until it becomes a part of who you are.
#2. THE BEST INSURANCE FOR A HAPPY MARRIAGE
Additionally in my practice, I saw many couples who complained that they had somewhere along the line, “lost that lovin’ feeling”, as the song goes. And then, they would either search for new ground (person) or stay locked into a vicious cycle of misery with each other.
So the question is, once you got the marriage, how can you keep it fresh and dynamic?
The answer is Agriculture! Bet you didn’t see that one coming either. Farmers, in order to keep their fields fresh and vital, use a technique called “Crop Rotation.” The dictionary definition of this is: Crop Rotation is the system of growing a sequence of different crops on the same ground so as to maintain or increase its fertility.
Instead of looking for new land to plow, or watching their own field waste away, farmers employ the practice of adding variety to their planting schedule. They change the formula for better results.
Sadly, many couples dissolve due to this lack of requisite variety in their relationship; thus leading into the sequence of looking for another person “who might be a better fit”, and then invariably finding themselves back at square one with this new individual as the field becomes fallow once again. Or, the couple chooses to stay the same and not working on different-ing the relationship.
The answer to adding freshness, fertility, and vitality to a marriage is to rotate your crops! Try something new, act something different, add a new line of script to the dialogue. Instead of staying in on Thursday night – go out, instead of complaining about the dishes – make it fun by putting on some great tunes on the stereo (crank it up) and sip a glass of wine as you do it together dancing, instead of watching all the games on Sunday – change the pattern (record the games for later) and vacuum the house or go to art museum.
You may just find your spouse asking, “What a surprise! What got into you?” Simply say, “Variety got into me.” And as it gets into you, it will osmosis into your relationship.
How cool is that?
Well, that is my two-cents worth for happy relationships. Happy Valentine’s Day Everyone!
Psychologist and Humorist,