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The 7 Habits of Happy Relationships

“Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.”
Dalai Lama

Happiness in life can come from many things.

From how meaningful you find your work to be. From a hobby you can get lost in for hours. Or from just being with the natural world around you and appreciating the warming spring rays of sun.

A big part of the happiness also comes from the relationships in our lives. And from how we cultivate them and let them grow.

So today I would like to share 7 of my favorite habits that have helped me to grow happier relationships of any kind.

1. Treat other people as you would like to be treated.

The most basic guideline of relationships is that how you treat someone is how that person is likely to treat you too in the long run.

If you are kind and helpful they will tend to be kind and helpful to you. If you never really listen or are judgmental then you are likely to get that in return.

There will of course be exceptions. Some people will not reciprocate and treat you well even if you treat them well. And you may not get back what you give right away.

But in the long run and in most cases things tend to even out.

Just don’t make the mistake of waiting for everyone else to make a change or to take the first step. Instead, be proactive. Be the one to take the first few steps to build the relationships you want to live in and to start giving what you want to get.

2. Truly listen.

Everyone wants to feel like they are being understood.

So when you listen, don’t just wait for your turn to talk. And don’t keep your mind half-occupied with some other issue or plans for tonight.

When you listen, truly be there. With your full attention.

Two things that have helped me to become a better listener are:

  • Fully focus outward. Focus on just what is happening in front of you with your senses. Listen carefully to the other person’s voice and the tone of it, the emotions expressed in the eyes and in how he or she uses his or her body. You may still miss things but forgetting about yourself and your troubles or ideas for a while is good starting point to be really engaged and receptive to what the other person is trying to get across.
  • Tell yourself you will tell someone else about this conversation later on. Then you’ll be more alert and what is said in the conversation simply seems to stick better in my experience. Plus, curiosity and trying to truly understand by asking follow-up questions tends to come naturally.

3. Be assertive.

Being assertive, being able to ask for what you want and to say no to what you do not want in your life will not only boost your own self-esteem. It also tends to make other people respect you more and it helps you to form healthier and happier relationships.

So how can you become more assertive?

  • Improve your self-esteem. When you improve your self-esteem then a wonderful thing happens. You start to feel more deserving of good or great things in your life. And so you will start to ask for them because you believe it is natural for you to deserve them (other people may of course say no to some of those things and that is their right). And you’ll start staying no to things or behavior both from yourself and others that you do not think you deserve anymore.
  • Focus on communicating clearly. Ask for what you want or for what is on the other person’s mind. Use your words. Don’t try to mindread someone else. And don’t expect other people to be able to do such a thing to you either. It is not their responsibility to know what you need in some magical way. It is your responsibility to communicate what you want or need. Just like it is for any other person.
  • Start small. If it feels scary to ask for something big or to say no to something very important then start smaller. Say no or ask for something very small. Then work yourself up towards bigger and bigger things.

4. Remember to give the small gifts of kindness.

It is easy to forget about the small gifts of kindness in the stressed and busy everyday life.

But such a small gift can mean so much. It does matter.

  • Just take a minute or 30 seconds to express your genuine appreciation or gratitude for something that someone in your life does well. You’ll brighten his or her day or week.
  • Leave a small and sweet note for your partner or child in a boot, hat, tea-container, underneath the pillow or in a book he or she is reading. It is a very simple and small thing but it in my experience it always brings a big smile to the recipient’s face.

And remember that sometimes a simple and genuine thank you can have a bigger impact than you may realize.

5. Mix things up.

Taking each other for granted or winding up in a repetitive rut can in many relationships lead to boredom or to things not feeling as exciting as they used to. Just relaxing and doing the same old things you always do don’t take much effort. But it can erode the relationship.

So make sure to mix things up. And to try new things once in a while. Do not just go outside of your comfort zone in your own time. Do it when you spend time with a partner or a friend too.

For example:

  • Try a new sport, hobby or restaurant.
  • Go to an event that sounds intriguing and like something new.
  • Go away for a weekend to some place you wouldn't expect the two of you to go.

6. Have human standards.

I often mention that one of the best ways to stop being a perfectionist and to be happier is to set human standards yourself. Instead of inhuman standards that no-one can live up to really.

This is a good tip for finding more happiness with other people too.

Having perfect standards for your partner, friend or co-worker can lead to a lot of conflicts that could have been prevented. It can even over time lead to the end of a relationship.

People will stumble and make mistakes. They will not always have a good day or perform at their absolute best. They will have flaws.

Sure, some things may need to change in the other person for you to keep being in the relationship. And some missteps could of course lead to the end of the two of you.

But many things that are smaller than that and that can cause irritation or arguments pretty much every week can be greatly reduced with everyone in your life simply by having human standards both for yourself and for others.

And over time, it can make a big difference in how relaxed, open and happy a relationship can be.

7. Focus on solutions, instead of arguing on and on.

Getting stuck in thinking too much about whys and what ifs can be quite destructive. Such thoughts going around in circles rarely leads to much except making issues bigger and scarier than they actually are and to feeling paralyzed or unnecessarily angry or irritated.

So be assertive instead. If there is an issue then communicate what the two of you are thinking instead of assuming or trying to mindread each other.

Find understanding by truly listening to what you hear and by trying to see things from the other person’s viewpoint by asking yourself:

How would I see this situation we are in if I were in his or her shoes?

Then focus on solutions together. Yes, one of you – or the both of you – may have made a mistake but it has already been done and you don’t have a time-machine. So don’t focus on replaying it in your mind over and over or on arguing about it for too long.

Try to move on to focusing on finding and taking action on a solution together. Instead of getting stuck in inaction on separate flanks.

Ask yourselves:

  • How can we solve this?
  • What is one small and practical step we can take today to move forward with this solution?

Focus on what WE can do. Instead of focusing all your energy and thoughts on ME vs YOU and turning a beginning conflict into a fight that benefits no-one really.

It will help both you and the other person and your relationship.

Image by alexisnyal (license).

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • By nature I’m an encourager. Kindness and compassion are free gifts to give out and can really make the difference in someone’s day or even outlook on life!

    I’ve found the encourager can be taken for granted & perhaps more tragically ignore their own needs. I’ve been focusing on that! The more I smile because I’ve chosen to be happy for me, the more I’ve begun to realize that people smile back, engage in conversations, etc.

    This blog (all of your blogs) are always positive & helpful! By all means – share it with everyone you can!! Thanks & I hope you have a happy day!

    • Gary

      Hi
      English is my second language so if I misinterpreted so please understand.
      I am a man and going through path of my life were I feel that I need support and none is available.
      I used to give support to anyone I felt a can do better with my support and it was practical first hand proactive support. They my wife my 2 daughter in their twenties also had a clear view what they need now for them and what I need to be doing. Unfortunately for me I have decided that family upbringing in foreign country with culture and language barriers will be my first priority. Because I decided to uproot that. My wife also was active but looking in retrospective only the technical not value side of it. So after 20 years of marriage we went to marriage consultant and she told to us that in our marriage I was in the role reverse (I took all my wife’s role on me). I lost my skills and experience and now I’m unemployed. I lost my confidence because they lost their leader.
      I am optimistic and care about meaningful life with relationship in the centre but they are busy now and consumed by their screen touch devices.
      So it’s a silent or to loud.

  • amit

    grt 1….

  • Hi Henrik, great write up. Thanks so much for this!

    I especially appreciate what you said about not waiting for everyone else to start treating you better before being willing to do the same – because of course, we can only control our choices and how WE treat others, so if we’re waiting around, we might end up waiting a looooong time!

    This article reminds me of one I recently wrote about:

    “5 THINGS EMOTIONALLY HEALTHY PEOPLE DO”
    http://juliakristina.com/2015/02/1699/

    You know what they say about great minds! ;0)

    Thanks again,

    Julia Kristina

  • Hello henrik ….I am from India and I love to read your blog ….it has brought a change in me………..I would feel glad if you could also write an article on to make a habit of waking up early……I am a student and I need to know about it ….thankyou

  • Mazmoon Rajcharan

    God bless you Henrik for helping us find ourselves again through the many challenges that life throws at us. Thank you.

  • I like the point of having human standards. All of our relationships are human and so we should give others the same flexibility that we hope they will give to us.

    http://www.lifechangeabq.com/blog/

  • This was an interest post. It is so important to treat people well because more times than we understand we are treating ourselves well when we do. It is always a good thing to be kind. It was a truly informative and pleasant post to read.

  • Above all, kindness is important. Its easy to take your spouse for granted and think you don’t need kindness, especially in a long relationship. But actually kindness becomes more important the longer the partnership goes on.

  • bancy

    its a gud content helping in some way but i have another question for you if u can get back to me…how to build a healthy relationship with a person who constantly argues without understanding and just speak ill of others???

  • I like this article. :)

    It’s really about the little things in relationships, your state of mind and how it shoes through your actions.

    Some great tips!

  • Totally agree with this article! :)
    here are some other tips for relationship that I wrote:

    http://www.happymaggy.com/worst-or-best-relationship-101/

    cheers! HappyMaggy

  • Hi Henrik,

    Having known that how you treat someone is how that person is likely to treat you too in the long run, I feel enlightened. This is a very good explanation at the earlier step for one who wants to change another person, because it implies that we have to change the way we treat the person first, instead of expecting that he or she changes first according to our own will. Just like you said, we have to be proactive to take the first step.

    Next, we have to be assertive in asking what other people want and tell what we want rather than mindreading. I think this part is worth emphasizing since we often feel afraid of questioning directly and preferring to read others’ minds. After opening ourselves to each other, we need to practice listening with focus during the relationship process. Then essentially, we must set ‘human’ standards and be willing to tolerate people, whenever they are out of track from what each party has previously communicated assertively, and whenever facing a new situation the solution of which has yet to be agreed on together.

    Those are the points I think are the most meaningful for me. Overall, this article is written simply yet complete for anyone who aspires to build a happy and healthy relationship. All the habits explained seem intertwined. They suit relationships in family, in friendship and at work. Therefore, I will certainly share its value with others. Great to know you!