Keep Relationships Happy and Well

Posted: September 19, 2011

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, a day designated for couples. Some couples may be just starting out while others have spent many years together. What is the key to keeping a relationship alive and well for many years?



     Paying attention to your partner is the first key to a happy relationship. Showing respect and fondness can be as simple as offering a compliment that will tell your partner you care. Take time to talk. Happy couples say they talk to each other "all the time" about everything.

     Another key is to be able to disagree without using criticism, contempt, and defensiveness. If a partner would start an argument with a harsh accusation, the outcome would be hurt feelings and failure to come to any agreement on a solution. And when the argument gets too intense, often one partner will withdraw. This pattern can become a habit which will damage the relationship. So express feelings and thoughts without using negative personal attacks. Use “I” statements to let your loved one know how you feel. Say, “I feel (state how you feel) when you (state specifically what your partner does) because (state why you feel that way). This is what I’d like you to do (state what behavior you want from him/her.)

   Couples need to be able to talk in positive ways in order to make decisions and resolve conflict.  Listen to your partner and take turns talking and listening. When you are working to solve a problem, stop to sum up what he or she has said. This lets your partner know you have really heard his or her ideas. Resist the temptation to criticize or lecture. When in doubt about whether to say what's on your mind, consider how you would feel if your loved one said that to you. If there is tension between you, consider writing your concerns in a letter to your partner.

     Happy couples keep their relationship alive and happy by sharing everyday activities or rituals together. It may be as simple as a cup of coffee after dinner or a kiss when leaving home in the morning. These rituals are expressions of love that have deep meaning in relationships.
     Also take time to express appreciation for one another each day. Avoid taking your partner for granted. Be generous with praise and display affection such as hugging, giving small token of appreciation like gifts and cards. Say "I love you", or "I like what you did so much", or "Thank you for ..." on a regular basis.


Karen Thomas is a family and consumer sciences educator for Penn State Cooperative Extension in Lackawanna County.