7 Ways to Build Happy Relationships

Pami Parker

How do you create a happy, healthy relationship? Read on to find out.

In psychology, many researchers conceptualize relationship quality in terms of how satisfied each partner is in the relationship. This focuses on the hedonic dimension of the relationship (pleasure or happiness). But of course, there is more to healthy relationships than how good you feel. For example, relationships can be a source of meaning, which may include commitment, sacrifice, and personal growth. Tio better understand your own relationship quality, you might explore:
  • Meaning: Is the relationship a source of meaning?
  • Personal growth: Is the relationship a key source of inspiration, support, and encouragement for self-development?
  • Goal sharing: Does the couple have shared goals and to also support and celebrate each other’s independent goals?
  • Relational giving: Does each partner prioritize the other partner more than themself?

Unhappy Relationships

Although it’s important to learn how to identify when a relationship is going well, it’s just as important to look out for signals that a relationship is not going well. Researchers have identified four key aspects of communication that can contribute to unhealthy relationships

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1. Criticism

When you criticize someone, you are attacking them to the core of their character. This is different from offering a helpful opinion or voicing a complaint.

2. Contempt

Contempt goes beyond criticism as it encompasses your moral superiority over the other person. This can include mocking them, ridiculing, calling them names, mimicking their body language, or scoffing. The intention is to make them feel despised or unworthy, which is a terrible feeling to instill or receive from someone.

3. Defensiveness

It’s natural to be defensive sometimes, especially if you’re particularly stressed or tired. Sometimes you might feel that you’re not receiving the right treatment, or you might play the victim so that the blame is no longer on you. But defensive responses often shift the blame onto the partner, which usually isn’t the best way to go. It tells the other person that you may not be taking them seriously and that you won’t own up to your mistakes.

4. Stonewalling

Stonewalling is often in response to contempt. This happens when the listener who is receiving sarcastic remarks or ridiculing comments ends up shutting down and no longer responds to the partner. They ‘stonewall’ the partner and try to avoid confrontation by acting busy, disengaging from the conservation, or simply leaving their presence.

How to Build Happy Relationships

1. Develop a strong emotional connection

According to psychology research, one of the most important predictors of a healthy relationship is being emotionally responsive.  This involves sending cues (e.g., verbal, physical) to your partner and having them respond to it (e.g., soothing, encouraging, etc.). 

2. Be vulnerable with each other

When partners open up to each other, this helps develop and strengthen mutual trust.

3. Be honest

This can go together with vulnerability, but also encompasses other forms of communication. A healthy relationship will likely not be based on lies.

4. Have ‘healthy’ conflicts

Conflicts are inevitable in any relationship, but how you go about dealing with them is essential. 

5. Try something new

This is especially helpful if your relationship feels stale, and it can reignite the spark (e.g., going to a new restaurant for date night).

6. Solve problems as a team

This can help strengthen your identity as an “us” instead of a “me” and “you” and develop your problem-solving skills together (e.g., this can range from an escape room to asking your partner for help with a problem at work).

7. Talk about your goals and dreams

Sharing similar hopes and values can help you reignite what attracted you to each other in the first place.

In Sum

Relationships require work from each partner, and it’s normal for relationships to go through hard times. By using the strategies outlined here, you can improve your relationships and hopefully keep them going strong. 

Positive Relationships

This masterclass is a complete, 6-module relationships training template for practitioners. Besides the masterclass for you, it also includes all the materials you need to deliver high-quality relationships training sessions that are science-based.

In this masterclass, you will learn the key principles of relationships that promote human flourishing and gain access to hands-on tools to help your clients discover and invest in social bonds that matter. 

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