A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

11 Daily Habits of Couples in Healthy Relationships

Do you expect your partner to take out the trash every week without ever being thanked? Can you recall the last time you paid your partner a compliment? Find out the secrets of people in a happy and healthy relationship.

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They Netflix and chill together

There are many little ways to boost your marriage—and chief among them is simple companionship. Even if you’re couch surfing, do it together. Spending time with one another is one of the highlights of a healthy relationship. If he’s reading a book, grab one and cuddle up next to him. Bring him a drink while he’s mowing the lawn. Does washing the car bore you to tears? Then simply stand nearby and chat while he suds it up. “In the beginning, couples go out of their way to impress each other and create new ‘first memories’ together,” says Julie Spira, an online dating expert, CEO of Cyber-Dating Expert and author of The Perils of Cyber-Dating. “After a while, just being together rises to the top of the relationship totem pole.” And there’s nothing wrong with a good binge-watch. One study found a direct link between media consumption while together and relationship satisfaction.

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The compliment one another

Here’s how to have a healthy relationship: Tell him how hot he is. Or that he smells delicious. Give her rear a smack in those jeans you adore. Happy couples know how to give a sincere compliment in the moment. In fact, a study found that receiving a compliment has the same positive effect as receiving cash. “Compliments are the quickest way to put a smile on your partner’s face,” says Spira. “Find something appealing about the other and never forget what attracted you to him in the first place. If it’s her ability to fill in the Sunday crossword puzzle or his ability to take charge when you need it, let each other know.”

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They say those three little words

If you’re looking to build a stronger relationship, you’re going to need to say “I love you.” Happy couples say it throughout the day—when they wake up, when they’re eating lunch, when they go to sleep. “Saying I love you to your partner, whether it’s first thing in the morning or at bedtime, is important,” says Bonnie Winston, a celebrity matchmaker and relationship expert. “And saying it with a shared kiss makes it extra special.” She says for variation to try other meaningful three-word phrases like “You amaze me,” “You enthrall me,” “I adore you,” or “You’re my everything.” They slip it into conversation whenever they can. Just be sure that you say these words genuinely. “Those three little words are great to say, as long as you say them with intent and not just purely out of habit,” says Alexis Meads, a professional dating coach.

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They say thank you

One of the best ways to make your spouse feel loved is to show graciousness—even for something as seemingly trivial as picking up the kids from a playdate or grabbing a gallon of milk at the grocery store. “Appreciation for all the good your partner contributes to your life is vital,” says Gilda Carle, PhD, relationship expert and author of Ask for What You Want AND GET IT. “Thank-yous go a long way to continuing wedded bliss.” In fact, a study in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology found that gratitude increased an athlete’s self-esteem, which is a component of an optimal performance. For the sake of your relationship, it’s important to express your appreciation for what your significant other does for you. “No one wants to feel taken for granted,” says Antonia Hall, MA, a psychologist, relationship expert and author of The Ultimate Guide to a Multi-Orgasmic Life. “By finding things each day for which you’re grateful and expressing it to your sweetie, you foster positive connectivity with him. It will make him feel appreciated and often sparks his desire to want to please you all the more.” Next in dating 101, learn what is a beige flag and whether or not you are one.

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They show PDA

Public displays of affection aren’t just for teenagers. Happy couples aren’t afraid to show their affection for one in another—even in public. “Intimacy and touch keeps you connected with your partner,” says Hall. “It fosters a connectedness that supports a strong and happy relationship.” Don’t worry, you don’t need to have a full-on make-out session in front of your in-laws. But you can keep your love alive by holding hands at the mall or snuggling at the kids’ baseball game. However, be careful of the things to never post about your relationship on social media. A little PDA goes a long way. “Just touching your partner will help you feel more connected, both physically, emotionally and intellectually,” says Spira. “Plus, it’s a great form of foreplay.” Not to mention that it shows that you’re vulnerable. “When vulnerability is shown and nurtured, then trust in your relationship has the ability to grow,” says Kristie Overstreet, a licensed professional clinical counselor, certified sex therapist and author of Fix Yourself First: 25 Tips to Stop Ruining Your Relationship.

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They check in with one another

You have to speak on the phone or text 24/7, but couples in healthy relationships call or text—to show the dog’s latest mess, a funny street sign, or for no reason at all. “Checking in with one another boosts feelings of ardor and security,” Winston says. Dr. Carle adds, “People who check in with one another during their busy days are letting their partner know they’re thinking of them, despite all the other things going on.” Got nothing to say? Send some of these funny parenting tweets that will make you LOL.

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They go to bed at the same time

“This doesn’t mean that you both have to fall asleep. But at least wind the night down and get into the bed at the same time,” says Overstreet. “This gives you the opportunity to close the day together, which is very important.” Research shows that 75 percent of couples don’t go to bed at the same time, usually because one person is surfing the web, working, or watching TV. Happy couples do their best not to stay up late cleaning the kitchen or folding laundry while the other catches some shuteye. Save the chores for another time. “In my experience as a relationship therapist, couples that go to bed at the same time have a more trusting relationship than those who don’t,” says Overstreet. Bedtime is an opportunity to talk about the day ahead and maybe have a quickie before you hit the hay too. These are the habits of couples with steamy sex lives.

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They laugh together

Soccer is at 4 p.m.; doctor’s appointment is at 5:30 p.m.; remember to pick up a pizza on the way home. It’s easy to get into the habit of talking only about the logistics of life and kids. Healthy couples make it a habit to laugh together—often. It keeps the joy and spirit alive in your relationship. A new paper from University of Kansas professor Jeffrey Hall gives data-backed validity to something you may have figured for yourself: couples who laugh together, stay together. “Find a way to make each other laugh,” says Spira. “Whether it’s watching a funny television show together or doing some playful teasing, laughter and happiness go hand-in-hand.”

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They share a hobby

Tennis anyone? How about writing music? Happy couples take up a hobby that they can do together. Even if they don’t have common interests, happy couples will develop them. Maybe they try new restaurants together or volunteer at the local soup kitchen side by side once a week. “By no means do you need to do everything together,” says Meads. “However, couples who stay together have fun doing some of the same things.” When couples see their relationship as full of fun, they’re more likely to be happier over the long term. “Adding your mutual hobby to your schedule gives you something to look forward to and a memory to look back upon,” says Spira. And living a stimulating life outside the bedroom will lead to a stimulating life inside it. Here’s how to find a hobby you’ll love.

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They ask for what they need

Happy couples ask for what they need and listen to each other’s requests. “Healthy relationships encourage people to be authentic in their feelings so they can genuinely express themselves,” says Dr. Carle. You’re doomed if you just hope that your partner will be a mind reader and “just know” what you’re thinking. Happy couples openly talk about their needs and understand their differences. “When your significant other does something you like, tell him so,” says Winston. “This will give him a feeling of validation and he’ll continue to want to please you.” Here are some ways to feel more comfortable asking for what you want.

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They’re a team

“With a team mentality, couples lift each other up and are stronger together,” says Hall. “They make sacrifices to benefit the long-term partnership.” They make decisions together—one person doesn’t call all the shots. It can be small issues like deciding what to watch on the DVR to bigger issues like figuring out where you want to raise a family. “Knowing your partner has your back and vice versa is a great source of comfort in the game of love,” says Spira. You function as a unit and think in terms of “we” instead of “I.” Remember that you’re on the same team, says relationship expert Andrea Syrtash, author of Cheat on Your Husband (with Your Husband).It doesn’t make sense to have a winner and a loser in an argument,” Syrtash says. “You’re more likely to fight more fairly when you consider this.”

Stacey Feintuch
Stacey Feintuch contributes to RD.com's Health and Relationship sections. Her articles have appeared in Woman's World, Boca Raton Observer and Healthywomen.org, among other sites and publications. She earned her MA in magazine writing from S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and her BA in journalism from The George Washington University.