Everyone thinks romantic partners are supposed to support you when you’re sick or down, and help you through tough times, but how we treat each other during the good times may matter even more to the relationship. Scientific American’s December 2009 article “The Happy Couple: Secrets to a Long Marriage” delves into how happy couples stay happy and successful. Here are some of key findings from researchers:
- Couples in stronger relationships react more positively to one another’s good news, while less happy couples respond in a neutral or negative way. Buoying one another’s joy during happy times may help cement feelings of satisfaction and commitment.
- Individuals in successful, happy relationships each experience a higher ratio of positive to negative emotions than do those in unsuccessful relationships.
Think back to the last time your spouse told you s/he had a good presentation at work or shared some other tidbit of good news. If you merely nodded your head and said, “That’s nice, honey,” while returning to your email or TV show, it turns out that’s almost as bad as making a negative comment. More positive reactions include expressing enthusiasm, holding eye contact, leaning in, and asking questions. These behaviors show you “get” what makes your partner happy, and it makes you happy, too.
Even if you have reservations, for example about your partner’s job promotion, express positive feedback and save the concerns for a later conversation.
Researchers say positive events happen three times as often as negative ones, so we should be able to get more practice on good days than bad. If that’s not the case for you, you need to engage in more enjoyable activities together—taking a walk in the park or watching a favorite movie or show together.