Want to be happier in your romantic relationship?
Updated: May 29, 2019
There are so many messages out there in our culture that tell us that romantic relationships are supposed to be a continuous source of joy and happiness and delight and all sorts of other wonderful things.
So when this doesn’t happen – when our relationships don’t seem 100% amazing, 100% of the time – we tend to think that something is wrong. Maybe we think our relationship isn’t good enough. Maybe we think someone else would be better for us. Maybe we slide into a pattern of discontent, or maybe we start actively entertaining break-up scenarios. Maybe we start blaming our partner for lots of things, and thinking thoughts like, “If only they were more like ____, I’d be so much happier.” Or, “If they just did more of ___ and less of ___, everything would be fine.”
Or maybe we just ditch our relationships as soon as we feel the slightest sense of dissatisfaction with the person we’re involved with.
And why wouldn’t we think and do these sorts of things? We live in a society in which imperfection is highly suspect. We’re pretty well trained, these days, to constantly look for external sources of happiness and satisfaction. There are also so many messages out there about what constitutes a “good” relationship… and so many ways to meet someone new if we decide we want to ditch our current partner and look for someone better.
If you like the results you’re getting from what you’re doing, that’s great. But if you want to be happier in your romantic relationship, if you want to feel a greater sense of satisfaction and happiness with your partner, if you want to learn how to feel like you’re with the right person, I have great news for you.
The only person who can make you happy in your relationship is yourself.
I know this might sound counterintuitive or even absurd. But here’s the thing. Although you presumably feel happy when you’re with your partner and as a result of your interactions with your partner, they don’t cause your happiness. Your thoughts and feelings about them cause your happiness. You like things about your Person. Your positive thoughts about them lead you to feel good about them. These thoughts and feeling may seem to come out of nowhere – isn’t love supposed to be this super-natural force that “sweeps us off our feet” and so on and so forth? – but they are still yours. Someone else could meet the person you’re in love with and be totally repulsed by them. You could wake up one morning and decide that you are suddenly repulsed by them, too! This happens all the time!
So how can you use this information to your advantage? How do you leverage the fact that you are the only person who can make you happy to get results in your relationship that you like?
First of all, you have to be willing to accept the idea that you can create your own happiness in your relationship, or at least try it out for a while. If you don’t believe that you create your own happiness, you won’t be able to do it.
If you want to be happier in your relationship and you’re amenable to exploring the possibility that you can make that happen all by yourself, here are three things you can do to get started:
1. Do something every day, WITHOUT your partner, that you really enjoy. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. It can be free, and it can be simple. Just take as much time as you reasonably can every day to do something that you like to do. Maybe it’s just taking a walk every morning, or re-committing to an abandoned exercise routine. Maybe it’s painting or drawing or sculpting or knitting. Maybe it’s just setting aside 20 minutes to read. But of course, if you have the time and resources, go big! Take private fencing lessons every afternoon if that’s your thing. Go to daily caviar tastings. Just find something that suits your budget and your schedule that you enjoy doing and DO IT consistently.
And if you don’t know what you really enjoy doing, that’s okay! Just start experimenting! There are so many interesting things to do in this world. There’s so much to learn about. There’s so much to appreciate. If you start exploring options, you’ll eventually discover – or rediscover – things you enjoy doing.
You don’t need to overthink this. You don’t need to question whether the activity or activities you pick are “good enough.” The only standard for success is that you do something you enjoy every day and that’s it. It doesn’t have to be cool or impressive or interesting or enjoyable to anyone but you.
Attending to your own happiness is an act of radical self-care. When you recognize you have the power to create happiness for yourself, and you don’t expect others to create it for you, you claim the opportunity to make your life the way you want it to be.
This alone may be enough to shift the dynamics within your relationship considerably. Happiness and self-fulfillment are attractive and contagious.
2. Every day, find something you appreciate or enjoy in your partner and give them a compliment or tell them how much you appreciate something about them. This practice is so simple, yet so powerful. It’s an opportunity to be curious about your partner and notice new, positive things about them. Sometimes we get into a rut with our partners; sometimes we take them for granted even though we appreciate them deeply. Looking for new things to appreciate about them is an invitation to see them with fresh eyes and an open heart.
And saying positive things to your Person every day is a gift to both of you. The only thing that’s better medicine for a weary soul than receiving a heartfelt compliment is giving a heartfelt compliment.
3. Finally, find one new reason every day to appreciate your relationship. This is similar to finding ways to appreciate and compliment your partner, but a little different. What has your experience of going through life with your partner taught you? How have you grown as a result of your interactions with them? What do you appreciate about the things you’ve shared? How have you had fun together? What have you created together that you never could have created by yourself?
Try to make your appreciations as specific as possible, even if you never share them with your partner or anyone else.
Try doing these three things every day for two weeks. Be curious about what happens. When we start to take responsibility for creating happiness, when we start to shift our focus to what’s present and positive, incredible changes can occur in our relationship dynamics, and in our lives as a whole. When we release the expectation that anything external to us – even our very special someone, and our relationship with them – should make us happy, a whole new set of possibilities for enjoying life open up.
Read more on this topic on Medium.
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