Most people are walking around with the unhelpful assumption that happy relationships are about finding the right person.
Blame Hollywood, blame Disney, blame all the media we’re exposed to throughout our lives, but happily-ever-after is almost always equated with finding ‘the one’.
Just one of the (many) problems here is that the moment things get challenging, we start to question the relationship. Or our choice in partner. We think ‘relationship difficulty’ means ‘I’ve chosen the wrong person’
But the truth is:
Who you’re in a relationship with is only part of the equation. How you do relationship is much more important.
Because when it comes to feeling fulfilled in your relationship, it’s the healthy relationship practices that make all the difference.
So you can call off the search for your ‘soul mate’ and start looking for a better way to do relationships instead.
But we also like to think it’s empowering. It means that creating an awesome relationship is in your hands, not the random fate of ‘The Universe’.
And from our years studying relationships and working with couples, we’ve discovered there’s a core set of practices that build emotional intimacy, deepen connection, and lead to greater fulfilment.
So even if you’re struggling in your relationship right now, these small, everyday actions can help you reach a whole new level of relationship satisfaction.
Here’s 7 examples of healthy relationship practices happy couples do every day.
healthy relationship practice #1:
Share Your Inner World
With all the couples we work with, there’s one universally common craving: deeper intimacy. And when we say ‘intimacy’, we’re talking about a lot more than just sex:
Intimacy is the feeling of emotional connection – that sense of knowing and understanding your partner on a deep, personal level. And that they know and understand you in return.
The thing is, creating this kind of emotional connection is scary. It’s incredibly vulnerable, and it’s not something we’re taught how to do well.
But one of the easiest ways to foster this type of intimacy is to ask this simple question:
“How was your day?”
Don’t be fooled, this is not as straightforward as it sounds.
Most people give pretty dull responses when asked this question. Usually something like a play-by-play of their day, what their co-worker said about so-and-so, or a lazy, mumbled “It was fine”.
Not only does this bore your partner, it doesn’t build connection.
Instead, aim to share what’s going on for you on an internal, experiential level:
- What goals did you work towards?
- Why is that important to you?
- What did you struggle with?
- What about that was difficult?
- What are you looking forward to?
- Where do you feel stuck?
The intention here is the invitation to share the things you think and feel.
Yes, this might include some details of your day, but connect those details back to what your partner actually cares about – you.
Make an effort to share your internal world and watch your emotional connection flourish.
healthy relationship practice #2:
Make Each Other’s Lives Easier
Let’s be real here – we’ve all got a lot on our plate. Between work, parenting, and keeping up with all the adulting, life gets very, very full.
One of the most precious (and undervalued) things about being in a relationship is that you’ve got someone by your side. You’re a team, tackling life’s challenges together.
And the strongest relationships find ways to make life easier for each other, every day.
It doesn’t have to be big, dramatic things. Even making your partner’s coffee in the morning, or placing their keys by the door can help take a load off.
It may sound obvious, but one of the best ways to find out what your partner needs is to simply ask, “What can I do to support you right now?”
Just asking the question goes a long way in reminding you that you’re in this together and that you’ve got each other’s back.
➜ RELATED: Be A Better Husband By Avoiding These 21 Common Mistakes
healthy relationship practice #3:
Share Your Appreciation
Yeah, we talk about this one a lot. But you know why? It’s freakin’ powerful.
Appreciation is the secret sauce that keeps your relationship feeling good. It makes you feel loved and special. It prevents you from feeling taken for granted. And it stops complacency creeping in.
Even when there’s challenges in your relationship, actively looking for things to appreciate will help you build the positive momentum needed to create change.
It doesn’t cancel out the tough stuff, but it does help you remember why it’s worth fighting for.
Appreciation is simple enough to do: Actively search for and focus on the things you appreciate about your partner, and your relationship.
And then tell them.
Say thank you for the little things. Let them know how special they are to you, and why. Tell them you love them, as often as you can.
And the best part?
When practiced regularly, appreciation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy:
The more appreciation you share, the more things you find to appreciate, and the better you feel about the relationship.
Not only that – sharing appreciation creates a culture of positive reinforcement, acting like a multiplier effect on all the healthy relationship practices you already have.
Simply put, it makes you want to do more and be more for each other.
You can speak it, write it, sing it, sign it – it doesn’t matter. Do it often, and do it from the heart.
healthy relationship practice #4:
Actively Cultivate Passion
Do you believe that passion and attraction in relationships ‘just happens’?
While waiting for sexual desire to strike might work in the Honeymoon Phase, if you’re in a long-term relationship, attraction is something you need to actively cultivate.
Passion is like fire – it needs fuel in order to burn.
The most connected couples know this. Inside the bedroom, and outside it too.
Exactly how to create passion and attraction is particular to each person. We each have unique ‘on’ and ‘off’ switches (which also vary by context). But here are some useful places to start:
- Spend time reflecting on why you’re attracted to your partner. What is it about them that you find sexy? Is it their eyes, their butt, their smile? Their integrity, their generosity, or the way they light up a room when they enter?
- Reminisce about your favourite times together – including some of your favourite sexual experiences.
- Take notice of the ways they excel and all the impressive things they can do. Seeing your partner do something they’re good at is a great aphrodisiac.
- Think about a recent time you really missed your partner, and how that felt.
One of the most important ways to cultivate attraction though is to feel good about yourself.
Yes, this means the obvious things like wearing clothes you feel great in, or listening to music that makes you feel sexy.
But it also means paying attention to the bigger stuff:
Things like working a job that fulfils you, having friendships that sustain you, and finding pursuits that nurture your creative talents.
This relationship practice isn’t necessarily about trying to have sex every single day (ain’t nobody got time for dat). It is about keeping that sense of excitement and attraction alive.
And by finding ways to keep that simmer going, it’s that much easier to get in the mood when you do want sex.
healthy relationship practice #5:
Discuss Your Schedules
This might sound like a snore, but here’s why it matters:
It helps you to set realistic expectations.
That’s important because unrealistic expectations are ticking time bombs in most relationships.
If you don’t know that your partner has an epic day of back-to-back meetings, you might be disappointed when you text them and they don’t respond right away. Or if you’re the one with the meetings, you might feel annoyed that they interrupted you when they were simply trying to connect.
There are hundreds of ways that unrealistic expectations will trip you up, but a commitment to clear communication will help you stay on track.
It can be as simple as asking “So what’s on for you today?” as you’re having breakfast together.
We have one couple in our practice who share digital calendars so they always know what’s going on. It doesn’t replace a good ol’ fashioned conversation, but it helps them stay up-to-date without having to remember every single detail.
Sharing daily plans with each other can also help to increase the emotional connection between you. Sure, it’s not a profoundly intimate topic, but it does help you feel included in each other’s lives.
Two healthy relationship practices for the price of one.
healthy relationship practice #6:
Share Affectionate Touch
It’s no surprise that sharing physical touch is a fundamental healthy relationship behaviour. But there’s a special kind of touch that the happiest couples have mastered: affectionate touch.
While it may seem straightforward, it’s actually difficult to master.
Because when it comes to affectionate touch, most couples are making this common mistake:
They’re using it to initiate sex.
What’s the problem with that, you ask?
First, we’re not as good at reading our partner as we think. We often can’t tell the difference between purely affectionate touch, and affectionate touch with an agenda.
You might want to be kissed and held by your partner. But every time they do that, it feels like they want something more. That feels like pressure and expectation, so you shut down and close off.
On the other hand, you might be trying to let your partner know you care by kissing their neck or grabbing their butt, but they misread you and go cold.
Over time, this dynamic gets weird and tiresome, so the loving touch dries up altogether.
This is how couples end up in affection-starved relationships.
To remedy this, make an agreement to stop using touch to initiate sex. It might sound unsexy, but use your words instead. It will help a lot in the long run.
(If initiating sex is a source of conflict and anxiety in your relationship, our step-by-step guide to initiating sex & re-kindling desire can help).
Then, you can use these easy ways to increase the affectionate touch in your relationship:
- When you’re moving past your partner, reach out and slide a hand across their back. Almost like a little “Hey there, just passing by and thought I’d say I love you.” But through touch.
- If your partner’s standing in the kitchen, come up behind them, wrap your arms around their waist and give them a cuddle. (Even just typing that makes me swoon)
- Hold hands while you’re watching TV, or find a comfortable way to be in contact with each other, even if it’s just your pinky toes touching.
- Put your hand on your partner’s leg when they’re driving.
When it comes to healthy relationship practices, no-expectation, loving and affectionate touch is one of the best there is.
healthy relationship practice #7:
Have Fun Together
Of all the healthy relationship practices, this one is our favourite.
The happiest couples know how to laugh together. And they do it on the daily.
Research has shown that making fun of each other (in a playful, loving way) can strengthen your relationship – as long as you both find it funny. And a shared sense of humour is a strong indication of a healthy relationship.
You don’t have to laugh at all the same jokes (we sometimes watch comedy and one of us is in stitches while the other hardly cracks a smile), but creating shared humour – especially when you’re together – is important to relationship longevity.
Whether it’s finding ways to make the little things fun, prioritising quality time that feels joyful and exciting, or simply sharing a good joke, laughter is rocket fuel for your relationship.
So keep sending each other those memes, just for the LOLs 🙂
Whether you’re in a relationship rut, or wanting some practical ways to create even more connection, these healthy relationship practices are a great place to start.
But what if you need more support?
In our Rockstar Relationship program we help couples to deepen their connection, up-level their communication (conflict included), and re-ignite the spark. If you need some help to create the kind of relationship you want, book in a complimentary, no-obligation video call here to find out if it’s a good fit for you.
Reece Stockhausen & Jodie Milton have made improving people’s lives and relationships both their passion, and their career. With over 25 years experience in the Personal Development industry, and 8 years coaching singles and couples, their no-BS advice has been featured in Cosmopolitan, Bustle, and HuffPost.
Book in for a complimentary online video call to discover how their men's, women's, and couple's coaching programs can support you.