There are tons of reasons you might be unhappy in a relationship. But if it's just relationship burnout — you've been together for a while, you're picking at each other, you're bickering for no reason, you're finding fault in everything — there are plenty of ways to be happier in your relationship. Of course, I'm not talking about slapping a Band-Aid on a real problem. If you're in an abusive relationship, or a controlling relationship, or your relationship just isn't going to work, no matter how hard you try, then these tips are not the answer. But if you're in a garden-variety relationship with all of the facets of success — it's healthy, you're a good fit for each other, you love each other, you can see a future together, you are genuinely curious how each other's day unfolded — then these tips are for you.
The truth is, anyone can find problems in their relationship — if they're looking. But if you want things to work out with your partner, you can't go around sniffing for trouble all the time. No one is perfect: not friends, not family, not our significant others and not ourselves. That's not the point. The point is — when you need someone, is your partner there for you? Do you love waking up beside them? Are they the last person you want to speak with at night and the first person you want to see in the morning? Do you get along with each other's families? If the answer to all of these questions is yes, you're doing OK. Here are 12 tips from eight relationship experts to deal with the day to day, and be happier in your relationship.
1. Be Grateful
Accentuating the positive will only lead to more positive. "Allow yourself to be happy in a good relationship," relationship coach Melinda Carver tells Bustle. You have all the trappings of happiness around you — so now kick back and reap the benefits. "This is the key to an attitude of gratitude — being grateful for a healthy and happy relationship with your partner," says Carver. Recognize that you're lucky, and act accordingly. "Celebrate the good in your relationship — what works for you both, the ways you support and love each other, and of course, the good sex!" she says.
2. Be Two Parts Of One Team
"Acknowledge that you are each on your own path," clinical hypnotherapist, author and educator Rachel Astarte, who offers transformational coaching for individuals and couples at Healing Arts New York, tells Bustle. "The bottom line of any relationship is that two individuals enter into the partnership." It's not necessary to blur the lines between you, or meld into one entity. "You came together because you saw common ground between you — physical and emotional attractiveness, outlook on life, similar desires for the future," she says. "You share the path that you are on, but each of you will find unique ways of getting where you want to be in life, ideally with your partner by your side."
Rather than getting cranky that your partner doesn't love to watch old episodes of Sex and the City with you, or doesn't like to garden, or isn't in the mood for a hike, "honor the differences between you," Astarte says. "Think of it like a path in the woods. You are both headed in the same direction, but on separate paths," she says. "You can admire your partner's independent journey and still reach across and hold hands as you travel together."
3. Put The Focus On Yourself
Are you taking good care of yourself? Are you deflecting all of the stress of your life onto your partner, and blaming them for the bad day you had at work or the bad attitude you have right now? "Practice self-care," Shamyra Howard-Blackburn, sex and relationship therapist and owner of Conquest Counseling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, tells Bustle. "In relationships, there is a lot of focus on what we should be doing for our partners. In order to be available to anyone else, we must take care of ourselves." If you're on a good track, you'll be too busy — and happy — to find all of the things that are wrong with your partner. "People are most happy in a relationship when they are happy with themselves," she says.
4. Stop Trying To Be Right
Would you rather be right or be happy? Hint: Happiness is way more fun. "Give up the need to be right," Rob Alex, who created Sexy Challenges and Mission Date Night with his wife, tells Bustle. Alex, aka the Guru of Getting It On, says there is often no such thing as right and wrong. "We get so caught up in the idea that everything has to have a wrong and right answer," he says. "Understanding that sometimes your partner just sees things differently than you do is a key to having a great relationship." This doesn't mean that you swallow your needs or never argue — it just means putting a different priority on rightness. "When you can disagree with your partner and simply say that you honor their position and accept it to be their truth, you have just crossed one of the major bridges to not only having an amazing relationship, but to having a better life too," he says.
You wouldn't fly off the handle on a dime at a coworker or a friend, so don't allow yourself to do that to your partner. "You can learn to be happier with your partner by treating him or her in the same kind and respectful way that you treat your friends," relationship coach and psychic medium Cindi Sansone-Braff, author of Why Good People Can't Leave Bad Relationships, tells Bustle.
Unless you're a Real Housewife, "most of us don't curse out our friends, judge them harshly, demand perfection, ridicule or criticize them, because, if we did that we'd have no friends." You don't "get" to treat your partner that way — and it's not a privilege. "Practice a little behavior modification, and start learning to say what you mean, mean what you say, without being mean about it," says Sansone-Braff. "Cut your mate some slack. Be kind. Say please and thank you. Build each other up. Be each other's biggest fan." You're on the same team. "This simple change — treating your lover like your friend — can go a long way in making your relationship feel like a healthy and happy one," she says.
6. Choose To Be Happy
A lot of people say that happiness is a choice. This doesn't mean waking up one day and commanding yourself to be happy — it's about doing the things you know that make you happy. "I think this is all about choice, choice to be happy, or choice to be miserable." psychologist Nikki Martinez tells Bustle. "Choice to focus on the little things that really don't matter, or choice to let them go."
Don't try to control things in your relationship, and instead choose happiness. "The most important choice we make is to let go of the things that we do not have control over and focus on the things we do," Martinez says. "If we keep focusing on the things that can not be changed, or want the whole person to change, we are not going to be happy. If we look at what is working and build from that, or even look at the few little things we do have control over and can change, they can make a world of difference."
7. Don't Nitpick
Do you want to be with your partner? If the answer is yes, then it doesn't pay to sweat the small stuff. "When it comes to relationships, it's not uncommon for us to nitpick or point out flaws in the person that we’re with," relationship trainer Daniel Amis, author of Unbreakable Love: Proven Methods For Developing a Stronger, More Satisfying Relationship In Just 30 Days , tells Bustle. Instead, love-pick. "What about pointing out things that you love? What about expressing the things, the qualities, and the traits that they have that you appreciate and love?" says Amis. "Look for it, and express your gratitude." I love this idea. Instead of being upset that your partner forgot to do the laundry, thank them for remembering to pick up dinner on the way home. "Expressing or showing gratitude is the ultimate motivator," says Amis. "Whether or not you're in a happy relationship, you can make it much, much better simply by expressing gratitude in your love life."
8. Have State Of The Union Talks
On a regular basis, sit down and talk things out. "This is not an argument or complaint session, it’s an opportunity to update each other on how things are going between you," Tina B. Tessina, aka Dr. Romance, psychotherapist and author of Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences , tells Bustle. Tessina, who suggests weekly conversations, recommends them because if the lines of communication are always open, you can be proactive. "If you keep each other informed of both the good things and the problems on a regular basis, nothing will get out of hand or become too dramatic to solve easily," she says. "This works every time with every couple in counseling with me who are willing to do it."
9. Fan The Flames
"Keep the relationship alive," says Howard-Blackburn. "Always find ways to nurture and grow the relationship." Rather than finding yourself in a rut, which can lead to dissatisfaction, keep finding ways to challenge yourselves. Travel, do new things — even trying a new restaurant here and there counts. "If you're not changing, you're not growing," Howard-Blackburn says. Don't forget to go on dates. "Continue to keep the lines communication open, date and maintain a good friendship."
10. Spell It Out
"Express Love, kindness and sweetness," says Tessina. "The relationships depicted in the media — and probably your own parents’ relationship — do not model kind, loving and considerate behavior very well." It's not boring to open up and tell your partner exactly how much you love them. "Although the press may be bored by politeness, kindness and happiness, those traits will make your partner and your relationship flourish and blossom," she says. "Consider kindness to be the lubricant of your communication, and expressing love to be the fertilizer that makes the relationship bloom."
11. Have Fun
Never underestimate the power of having a great time. One of the most important components of a happy relationship is obviously fun and laughter, says Alex. "When we laugh and are having fun, some of same types of hormones are released into our body as when we orgasm," he says. "So it makes since that we should laugh together as a couple." The list is long here, says Alex: "Do silly things to see if you can make each other laugh, tell jokes, watch funny movies, even have a tickle fight if neither one of you is susceptible to peeing your pants."
Alex says it's wise to bring the laughter to all situations. "Keep that laughter up in the bedroom too," he says. "Try some of those crazy Kama Sutra positions and laugh hysterically when you fall over or when they just are humanly possible," he says. "I personally don't think there is enough laugher in the bedroom. Some of my most amazing sexual experiences involve those that not only have me feeling amazing physically, but have me laughing at the process."
12. Care For Your Partner
As Howard-Blackburn said, self-care is crucial in a relationship. "Guard against sacrificing too much by making sure you care about yourself — emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually," says Tessina. Once that's in place, do the same for your partner. "Guard against narcissism and selfishness by caring about your partner in the same four areas," she says. "Achieving balance in these areas is the best way to ensure that your relationship will thrive, and no one will carry too much resentment, which is the only emotion that can destroy love." Don't destroy love!
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