What do happy couples do? They spend all of their time together, right? They call each other ridiculous pet names. Loudly. In public. They buy each other tons of expensive gifts for birthdays and for 7-week anniversaries and for no reason at all. They never fight. Oh, and they have sex ALL THE TIME. Right? Does any of that sound familiar? Well, that may be the myth perpetuated by every sitcom since 1974 (we’re looking at you, Ross and Rachel), but it’s far from reality. The truth is much more, well, fun. Let’s tackle these mistruths one by one. How much time should couples spend together? Three hours and forty-seven minutes per day? More? Less? No, the answer is different for every couple. You can find your own unique balance. Two people in a relationship have lives of their own in addition to their couple life. In other words, they may not be together 24-7. They may only see each other once a week, and that’s all right. In fact, balance is healthy. That said, spending time together and enjoying each other’s company is one of the best things about being a couple. So how can you make the most of this time? Happy couples benefit from trying new things together, says Arthur Aron, Ph.D, of Stony Brook University.According to an article in LiveScience, “these novel experiences stimulate brains to create the neurochemicals dopamine and norepinephrine, which are also created during the early, exhilarating stages of romantic love.” In other words, make a date to try skydiving. Or at least have dinner at that new restaurant down the street. Next, what about pet names? Contrary to this list of eleven popular pet names, “Muffin” may not be a good idea. Then again, we’ve all heard worse, but pet names are just a means to an end. It’s a lightweight way to say, “Hey you – you’re special to me.” That’s why happy couples create little rituals and inside jokes. Sharing something with your “Darling” or “Monkey” or <insert name guaranteed to make innocent bystanders blush here> reinforces your connection as a couple. Gifts are another way to ramp up that special feeling. So
how much should you spend on presents to please your partner? It turns out that there is no ideal amount, nor is this the right question to ask. You don’t need to spend a lot of money. Heck, you can leave your wallet at home. Happy couples know that it’s the little things that count. An embarrassing display of roses on Valentine’s Day won’t make your couple any stronger. Nor will that fancy watch make him or her more grateful for your time. However, a handwritten card hidden in his or her lunch bag is time well spent. How about going out of your way to pick up your partner’s favorite pancake mix? It’s a small gesture, but nothing’s sweeter. Especially if you can make them together. With all of this awesomeness in the air, it’s easy to see how happy couples never fight. Oh wait, that’s not true. They do. There will always be conflicts to resolve, but happy couples choose to fight fair. That’s means listening and using pronouns like “we” instead of “I” to show that you’re still a team. Equally important, follow the advice that wildly-popular blogger Eric Barker highlights after reading Karl Pillemer’s30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans: “Don’t go to bed angry.” There are more important things to do in bed… Which brings us to sex. Yes, it’s fun, but does a happy relationship depend on three times per week or more? No, there’s no magic number, and you might not have sex at all. As with pet names and presents, there’s a deeper meaning — it’s all about affection. You and your partner can find a healthy balance that works for your sex lives, but make sure it includes the kind of affection that you want. Happy couples hold hands and cuddle. It’s just one more way to create some of those happy hormones that our friend Dr. Aron studies. At the end of the day, happy couples do what works for them. No two couples are alike, but happy couples show how much they care through good relationship habits. It’s the best kind of virtuous cycle – when they’re happy, then you’re happy, and they get happier, and you…well, you can see where this is going.