Relationship Coaching
   with Amy Newshore M.Ed, CMHC

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Let’s Talk Relationships: What do happy couples do?

Amy Newshore

For the Recorder 

Published: 3/3/2023 6:18:20 PM

Do happy couples have a secret for lasting fulfillment in their relationships? The answer is “no.” It is never one thing that they all have in common. It is a bunch of things. Researchers have determined that certain habits and ways of communicating are largely responsible for relationships flourishing. Let’s dig into what some of these are.


Invest in fun times together

Fun and happiness go together. Research shows that four-year-olds typically laugh about three hundred times a day, while a 40-year-old laughs about four times. Young children engage in activities that naturally invoke more laughter and fun, such as long stretches of play and socializing. Adults also need to play and socialize. As we well know, adulthood brings responsibilities, tasks, and details that pull on us and require much attention in our daily lives. Moral of the story? We just might need to carve out some intentional fun time into our lives.

Laughter is not only pleasant and fun; it promotes bonding between people. Victor Borge, beloved Danish-American comedian/pianist, wrote: “Laughter is the shortest distance between people.” Research finds that people who laugh together end up liking each other more. Along with the great benefit of being and staying close to one’s partner, laughter also boosts endorphins, and has many other physical and mental health benefits.

To create opportunities for fun and laughter, couples can get creative with celebrating occasions — such as getting a promotion, achieving an exercise goal, or finishing a house project together. Making a special meal/dessert together, enjoying humorous entertainment, or hosting a night of playing board games with friends can go a long way towards adding some spark and joy to the relationship.

In addition, an ongoing commitment to regular date nights is often prescribed by couples therapists as a way to ensure that the couple can get away to have some fun, or even have a date night at home. Giving each other full attention without phones (and not talking about the kids!) gives couples a chance to keep up a strong, enduring connection.

Eat dinner together

The dinner table has been a symbol of solidarity and belonging in families for generations. We have seen a decline of this very important ritual by 33% in the last 20 years. Just this past year, I noticed a local billboard reminding families to make sure they eat dinner together! Coming together around the table at the end of a stressful day can be restorative, and provide a predictable source of comfort, connection and enjoyment for all involved.

However, this may not have been our experience growing up in our childhood homes. Instead, there may have been tension, arguments, interruptions, or excessive drinking. If this was the case, we can create a new version of dinnertime within our families or partnerships. Some have found it helpful to turn off all phones, computers and television, have each person share a highlight and a “lowlight” of the day, put on some enjoyable music, light a candle, or say what they appreciate about each other.

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Talk about things that matter

Whether it is around the dinner table or some other time and place, familiar topics that couples end up focusing on include the kids, household responsibilities, family matters, money and work. Couples who make time to talk about more intimate aspects of life, such as their personal triumphs, challenges, hopes, dreams and fears, report feeling happier with themselves and each other.

When stressed, self-regulate

Thriving and secure couples face difficulties at times, like any other couple, but they know how to self-regulate when emotions run high. Strategies include taking a break before interacting, so that they don’t fly off the handle and treat their partner unkindly. Instead of blurting out what they are upset about, they can let their partner know what is bothering them in a calm, clear and kind way. They don’t allow their emotions to control them, and are able to use “soft starts” to address sensitive topics. An example would be letting their partner know that there is something they want to talk about, asking if the partner is in a place to listen, and if so, sharing their feelings and needs, without criticism and judgment.

Express gratitude and appreciation often

Happy couples make it a habit to accentuate the positive. Infusing your relationship with appreciation for each other is one of the most important things you can do. It is easy to fall into the trap of focusing too much on what is “wrong” with your partner. This can create a “negativity bias” which over time can cause a build-up of resentment and fray the bond between you. There are times in all relationships when partners need to bring up what is bothering them about each other. Still, every appreciation makes a “deposit” in each other’s “emotional bank accounts.” Keeping both “accounts” full builds a foundation for a strong relationship that can weather any difficulties.

Give everyday affection

Dr. John Gottman, an expert on relationships, says it well: “In the hustle and bustle of daily life, we may forget to slow down and physically connect with our spouses. We’re not (just) talking about sex here, but all kinds of physical connection, from hand holding to long hugs to daily kisses and caresses. Data show that people in physically affectionate relationships are happier.” Gottman suggests sharing a strong hug and lingering in a “seven second kiss” when greeting each other. Connecting physically in these ways boosts oxytocin, the hormone that governs human bonding and feelings of well-being.

Make time for sexual intimacy

Sexual intimacy too often takes a back seat when work, parenting and relationship difficulties become overwhelming. Regular sexual intimacy can immunize a marriage against staleness and distance by enabling partners to experience enduring closeness, pleasure and love.

I am cheering you on to make an effort to fortify your relationship in any of these ways. Having a happier relationship just might start with you!

Amy Newshore is a couples therapist/ coach who earned her master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling at Antioch New England University and went on to train in the Developmental Model for Couples Therapy along with NonViolent Communication which serve as the foundation of her work as a relationship coach. For more information, visit her website at www.coachingbyamy.com.


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