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Column: 7 habits of happy couples

Long-lasting relationships depend on kindness and generosity – but how do we put those attributes into practise?

Business Insider

SCIENCE HAS DISCOVERED that long-lasting relationships depend on kindness and generosity.

This presents us with a question: how do we put those facts into practise? What actions can we take to improve our relationships?

Luckily, a bunch of smart people submitted answers to a recent Quora thread, “What habits do happy couples have?”

The results — a mixture of rituals, best practices, and qualities to cultivate — were instructive. Here are a few habits of happy couples.

They communicate, communicate, communicate

User Tim Grahl says that whenever he and his wife have a disagreement, they don’t “let it go.” Instead, they talk until they understand one another’s point of view.

“We talk about how we’re raising our sons, we talk about how we spend our time, we talk about our schedules to make sure we aren’t too busy,” he writes. “On anything remotely important, we make sure we stay on the same page and come to an agreement before moving forward.”

They’re aware of, and have great respect for, one another’s emotional well-being

One anonymous user said that in her 36 years of marriage to her husband, they’ve made sure to be transparent about any pain that comes up.

“If one of us feels hurt, we say ouch,” she writes. “The one who feels hurt gets to talk uninterrupted for as long as it takes to express the hurt. The other listens, then asks questions for clarity. If the one who did the hurting can rephrase what was said that hurt, that may be all it takes.”

They spend time alone together

When user Marcus Geduld and his wife unwind together, they don’t have to be interacting. They might be sharing a sofa, but they’re in their own worlds. “My wife may watch TV while I post answers on Quora, or she may do a crossword puzzle while I read,” he shares. “It’s nice to be in the same room together without any expectation that one of us has to amuse the other.”

They start as equal partners, and they stay equal

At the start of the relationship, it’s crucial to look deeply into the relationship dynamic and see if it will be a partnership of equals, however that may be defined.

“If you don’t legitimately believe that [you're equals],” an anonymous user writes, ”then there will forever be a built-in weakness in the relationship, which will never be a true partnership.”

The data backs this up: New research shows that marriages with significant age differences are more likely to end in divorce.

They encourage differences

A couple is two people continually choosing to be together, and that needs to be appreciated.

“See the wonder in [your differences],” says another wise anonymous Quora user. “That’s what made you fell in love with that person, the new and different things that you didn’t have. Make them grow. Do not try to erase them so you become one. Always be two.”

They cuddle

User Jen Lynn and her husband have an enviably cozy tradition: cuddle time. “Every day after work, they spend five to 30 minutes laying in bed and just cuddle, talk about our day, talk about what we want to do that evening,” she writes.

It’s mundane, she says, and that’s the point — no TV or radio on, no iPhone in hand.

“It’s just being with each other and decompressing from the day,” she says.

They regularly make important decisions together

User Drew Lanza and his wife Jane like to hold regular “summit conferences” — formal meetings where they reach an agreement about a big decision.

For example, their kids are now grown, so it’s time for a summit conference with a few major questions, like: Do we stay in our house or downsize? What level of financial support should the kids get going forward?

The important thing is that the questions are asked.

“There are no ‘right’ answers to these sorts of questions — that’s why you hold the summit conference,” he explains. “But we’ve discovered that it’s important that we noodle, then make a decision together.”

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