7 Habits of Happy Couples

This Valentineís Day, instead of truffles or champagne, how about introducing some small but valuable changes to help your relationship go from good to great?

Habits of Healthy Relationships

A heart-shaped box of chocolates or a dozen red roses are classic romantic gestures that can bring a smile to your loved oneís face. But Victoria Fleming, PhD, LCPC, of North Shore Counseling in Northbrook, Illinois, author of You Complete Me and Other Myths that Destroy Happily Ever After, says that for a strong and lasting relationship, cultivating certain habits are much more important than commercial expressions of love. She recommends strengthening your relationship by adopting these seven healthy behaviors:

  1. Balance your needs with those of your spouse. "Getting along with people is not a mystery, and neither is getting along with your significant other," Fleming explains. "Considering your partnerís point of view, and really committing to understanding it, rather than fighting it because itís different than yours, will go a long way towards relationship harmony."
  2. Check in regularly, even when you are busy. "Itís not too much to send a quick text with something you found amusing," Fleming says, "but itís important this doesnít become routine or an obligation." By making small connections during the day, you can maintain that closeness even when you are separated, and will have that shared bond when you do come together again.
  3. Consider your partner before you make any big decisions or plans. "A weekend away with friends sounds fine, but not if it conflicts with something your partner already had planned," Fleming says. "Joining a new club or starting a new activity is going to have an impact on your partner, so be sure youíve thought through any new commitments and thoroughly discussed the impact on the family with your partner."
  4. Find shared activities youíll both enjoy. Fleming says that having some joint interests and activities, such as running, going to a concert, or visiting a museum can provide new experiences and more shared memories. But that doesnít mean you should drop activities you enjoy if your spouse doesnítóitís healthy to have activities that are just for you, as long as they are life-enriching and add value to your sense of self and happiness. A happy you will make you a happier partner.
  5. Reach an agreement about spending habits. "Make a commitment to stay within the agreement, or talk it through if you want to spend something that goes outside the agreement," Fleming says. Money can be a source of conflict for many couples, so you will need to find a compromise regarding earning and spending you can both live with.
  6. Respect one anotherís differences. "Itís very likely those differences were part of the attraction that brought you together," she points out. "Unfortunately, the 'You Complete Me' myth often plays out and leaves couples angry and disillusioned with the relationship Ö so get in the habit of reminding yourself why you love your spouse and why your life is better because he/she is in it."
  7. Be self-sufficient. "The most important quality required for a truly happy union is healthy self-sufficiency," Fleming says. "This quality means that you are a happy and whole person, ready to love and support your partner while you are willing to be loved and supported."

Putting it into Perspective

Just remember that you donít have to wait for Valentineís Day to celebrate your relationship: "Itís important that you appreciate the value and strengths of your relationship every day," Fleming says. "A husband who is there when you need him, checks in with you daily, and supports you all year long is way more valuable than a guy who comes and goes but then splashes out once a year."

Victoria Fleming, PhD, LCPC, reviewed this article.


Fleming, Victoria, PhD, LCPC. Email interview, January 23, 2014.