Have a Happy Relationship in 7 Steps

Valentine Couple. Portrait of Smiling Beauty Girl and her Handso
Valentine Couple. Portrait of Smiling Beauty Girl and her Handsome Boyfriend making shape of Heart by their Hands. Happy Joyful Family. Love Concept. Heart Sign. Laughing Happy Lovers. Valentines Day

A long-time friend recently told me “you’re the only person I know that’s happily married.” While I took the compliment, I thought it awfully sad for her friends. I asked “what about other relationships?” She said it was the same all over, married, living together, seriously dating, everyone she knew, including herself, was unhappy in their relationship.

It got me to thinking: What makes my relationship a happy one? Is it simply a matter of perception, that she assumes I’m happy and assumes others are not? She’s not delusional and seems to have a pretty good handle on how others truly are, so that seemed unlikely. I don’t present a false front to her, so that seemed an unlikely reason. Is my relationship happy? Yes, I feel happy in it. Her statements must be true, to the best of her opinion. So why am I happy and so many people, at least by this sample, seem to be less so?

I do the following things, that may be a benefit to you in your relationship:

  1. Say thank you. The little things add up. If you spouse did something around the house, notice and say thank you for having done that thing, even if it’s so mundane as preparing a meal or bringing in the trash cans. After all, without them doing it, it’s all on you. Once in awhile, say thank you for the bigger things “thank you for going to work every day and making sure we have enough money to pay our bills,” or “thank you for always being available to listen when I need to vent about the kids.”
  2. Let it go. We have a rule that may or may not work for you: whatever is bothering you, you have to say it right away. This involves no stewing, no ruminating, no grudges. We never have an argument (we rarely argue anyhow) that involves “and remember last month when…” because we dealt with that thing last month. Sometimes these things are stupid, like “you said you’d move my laundry to the dryer and it’s still in the washer.” Stupid, right? I know. But isn’t that the kind of thing that, if you ruminate on it, will lead you to say things about a person’s character like “he never follows through.” Is that true? No, but there seemed to be a lack of follow through in that instance. So deal with the issue, not the characteristic. You are with someone because you believe their traits are good, overall.
  3. Keep it to yourself. Don’t talk smack to your friends or family or coworkers. They will hear you in a bad mood and make generalizations, especially if mostly what they hear is your bad-mood stuff. They’ll then give you advice like “you don’t need someone like that,” which may be far from true, but when several people say the same things, you may doubt yourself. Be slow to talk negatively about others (your spouse, your kids, your friends, your family) to anyone. Be quick to talk positively, though. This is not akin to wearing blinders and pretending things are as they aren’t, but evaluating on your own scale, not an outsider’s. Journaling is a better outlet.
  4. Compromise. You shouldn’t get your way all the time. Weigh the importance of the issue with the importance of your continued relationship. The old saying is “You can either be right or happy.”
  5. Communicate. Oh, so cliche! I know, I know. It’s a skill; it’s an art. Talk, face to face, at least a few minutes every day. Know what an expression means, a gesture, a lack of talking about something. My best friend said of me, “I can tell by the tone of your silence when something’s bothering you.” That’s an art developed over decades.
  6. Do the little things. I’m always thinking of people I love. When I’m at a store or watching TV or reading, I may see a passage or article or item that reminds me of them. I snap a photo, send an email or a text, pick up an inexpensive thing, right then. I don’t wait, don’t hold things for special occasions. I say “I saw this and thought of you.” Most of my circle has said I’m incredibly considerate because of that. How much effort does that take? Almost none. Almost no money – if I can’t afford a thing, I photograph it and send a text “doesn’t this remind you of that time we were talking about…” My one friend has a pair of scissors I got her in the shape of a woodpecker that makes her laugh every time she’s in her kitchen because we were once at a party and a man told us a terrible joke involving a woodpecker with no punchline. We still laugh about it. It takes no money and almost no effort to connect with others. I made a bad-day-bag of gift wrapped item of less than $10 each that my husband can pull from when he’s had a bad day at work, after a rather long run of such bad days. You know when he sees these little things, he thinks of me and that I was thinking of him.
  7. Take nothing for granted. I believe that divorce is possible for me, that people change, that this marriage may not last forever. I spend some time each day devoting time and energy to my marriage and my spouse. While that amount of time and energy varies, I don’t think I ever miss a day.

If you find this useful in some way, please share the information.

Autumn Hahn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist practicing at Clear Mind Group in Weston, Florida. Call 954-612-9553 for a consultation. Follow Autumn on Twitter Facebook. Sign up for the e-newsletter HERE.

Always Communicate

Yellow tulips on a dark background
Bouquet of yellow tulips on a dark background

It’s cliche because it’s true; communication is key in any relationship. My relationship is no exception. Here’s an excerpt from my real life:

Some friends were coming into town on Friday night for our mutual friend’s birthday party the next day. I suggested to my husband that they might want to get together for a late dinner. I couldn’t attend because I was getting over being sick and needed the extra rest. He said that sounded good. I told him “It’ll take an effort on your part,” meaning he needed to call them to arrange plans.

Husband said “I feel guilty tripped, now. Like I have to call them and go out.”

I said “That’s not how I meant to come across. I wanted to make you aware of an opportunity, in case you choose to make plans. Help me; how would you have liked to have heard that so it didn’t sound like guilt or obligation?”

Husband replied “Maybe if you’d have explained it as an option, or not used the phrase ‘an effort’, because you’ve said that I need to ‘make an effort’ before when I wasn’t seeing our friends.”

I responded “That makes sense to me. Sorry that I made you feel guilty. They’re your friends, too. I’m stuck home, but call them if you want, or you’ll see them tomorrow.”

He did call and they went out. And we all hung out the next day. But there was no animosity, no hurt feelings, no lingering guilt or anger because we discussed it in the moment like rational adults.

What is an example of a time you communicated your feelings and were heard in a positive way? Or is this a skill you’re just learning?

Autumn Hahn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist practicing at Clear Mind Group in Weston, Florida. Call 954-612-9553 for a consultation. Follow Autumn on Twitter, and Facebook. Sign up for the e-newsletter HERE.

Trusting After a Betrayal

Relationship DifficultiesWhen a spouse cheats, there can be the thought of “I should have known” by the betrayed party. The person may feel foolish or blind and doubt his/her ability to move forward with trust.

Trust is a concept without form. Assessment is a skill we constantly use. However, trust is conceptual and an illusion. Continue reading “Trusting After a Betrayal”

User Manual – Guest Blog by Julie Davis, LMFT

0julieA friend called me the other day raving about the new gadget that she had saved for, shopped for, invested in, and finally owned. Two weeks later I asked her about it:

“It’s too complicated. I can’t figure out how to make it work.”

“What about the User Manual?” I suggested.

“I don’t have the time. I’m just going to get rid of it.”

Unfortunately, I find this to be a similar way of thinking in many relationships:

Continue reading “User Manual – Guest Blog by Julie Davis, LMFT”

Your Money Story – guest blog by Stephanie Steen

0ssMONEY!

It is one of those things in life that people both love and hate!

Unfortunately, money can negatively impact both your physical and mental health. Being in debt and missing payments can cause physical health problems such as ulcers and can affect depression and chronic stress. Even if you are not in debt, money can be a burden on your life and your relationship.

That is because you enter adulthood with a money story. Your money story can change and develop as you find your place in the world.

So what exactly is a money story?

Your money story is how you look at and react to different financial situations. It is based on how you grew up and the struggles or benefits you had.

To start writing your money story think about:

  • What was your family’s financial status growing up?
  • Did you get the things you needed or were there times you went without?
  • Did your family have an extreme increase or decrease (lost job or inheritance)?
  • What did your family teach you about money?
  • What is your current relationship with money?
  • What about money now makes you feel positive or negative?
  • What do you feel money can buy?
  • Write a paragraph about money and see what pops up.

Your money story affects your mental health when your life is not congruent to the thoughts you have about money.

Let’s say for example your money story includes growing up with a decent amount of money. You had everything that you needed plus most of what you wanted. Your parents prided themselves on being able to provide. You saw that your parents worked hard, but maybe you did not see them very often because of that.

As an adult raising a family you now struggle with making money and balancing that with having a family. You live paycheck to paycheck. You struggle with wanting to make more money and wanting to be home. Your struggles come from the incongruency in your life and your story.

Recognizing your money story can help you understand the stress you feel. It is a starting point to dive into what is most important and begin to accept or change where you are.

Stephanie Steen, Registered Mental Health Counseling Intern is a therapist in Melbourne FL. She works with women who are in the middle of a major life transition (divorce, loss of job) and helps them to see the light at the end of the tunnel so they can begin living authentically again. She shares tips on regaining happiness on her Facebook Page and website.  

Autumn Hahn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist practicing at Clear Mind Group in Weston, Florida. Call 954-612-9553 for a consultation. Follow Autumn on TwitterFacebook, and Google+. Sign up for the e-newsletter HERE.