How happy couples stay together and make it work

It’s no big secret that relationships are hard work. But why is it that some couples can go the distance while others throw in the towel half way?

Well, according to relationship expert and psychotherapist Melissa Ferrari, the happiest and most successful couples take a proactive stance on their relationships and work on it constantly.

“The most common mistake I see couples make is letting issues fester and grow into built-up resentment. When they seek help, couples wait an average of six years before getting counseling. By then sometimes it can be too late,” she warns.

And after seeing hundreds of couples walk through her door, Ferrari has learned a thing or two about exactly what successful couples do to make it work. Read them on your iPhone (and then print them for the fridge.)

1. They do new things together

“If you’ve been together for a while and feel like you know each other inside and out, finding a new activity to do together can reignite the spark – whether it be a cooking class, dining in a new restaurant or going away somewhere you’ve never been before. Our brains love novelty, so by doing new things with our partner, we light up parts of the brain that say ‘this person is interesting to me.’ So keeping your brain on its toes can keep the passion alive.”

2. They plan for the future

“Whether it be planning the weekend, or talking about marriage and children, having a shared view of a future together – and actively working towards realizing it together – is one of the best ways to make your partner feel secure.”

3. They regularly check-in with each other

“Matters of the heart are actually all about the brain. Some areas of the brain are wired to reduce threat and danger and seek security, so the happiest couples constantly try to create an environment that helps both feel safe and secure. Regularly asking your partner if ‘everything is ok’ and scanning them for their feelings, is a way of showing that you care and it nurtures the relationship and diffuses negativity.”

4. They do things for each other

“It may be helping with housework, sending a cute text message or something as simple as putting the lid back on the toothpaste, but happy couples train themselves to automatically do things they believe will make their partner happy. When the nervous system is experiencing positive things, it makes you happy and more inclined to do things for your partner, too.”

5. They spend a few minutes connecting every day

“Couples need to acknowledge each other every day, even if only for a few minutes. Kiss that little bit longer, look into your partner’s eyes and give them your full attention when they tell you about their day (don’t play on your phone.) These things help your partner feel special and loved and you will reap the rewards if you are consistent.”

6. They touch each other

“Many people are deprived of touch. While we may be able to live without it, the impact of what touch does for a relationship is immeasurable. Touching each other doesn’t always mean it has to be sexual. You can touch by holding hands, embracing, massage or lying really close while watching TV. Of course, add the delicious feelings of sexual touch and you will encourage a solid connection.”

7. They always have each other’s backs

“If you’re not happy with something your partner has done, resist the temptation to tell all your friends – and social media followers – about it. Your partner should always be the one you talk to first about what you are feeling or experiencing and you should give your partner the chance to make things right again. Happy couples never put their partner down in front of other people. If you feel isolated in the relationship and need outside help, sometimes you do need to go to a friend or therapist, but ultimately, running your partner down could do damage that is hard to correct.”

8. They don’t threaten to leave

“Our brains are wired for attachment and being loved and it’s always searching for what feels safe and secure. Happy couples don’t threaten break-up or divorce at the first sign of trouble, as this can have a long-lasting, negative impact on the relationship. Your partner may struggle to ever feel safe in the relationship again and worry that you will leave for good next time there is an argument. Talk to your partner if you are unhappy and consider seeing a couple’s therapist. Tell your partner how serious things feel for you, but never threaten to end a marriage in a heated argument or to manipulate.”

9. They know it’s hard work
“Love doesn’t just continue and happen. You’ve actually got to decide to be in love. You’ve got to decide to be your partner’s lover. You’ve got to decide that you’re going to be in this relationship and create the safety and security required for it to work. In other words, happy couples make a commitment and work on it.”