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What Passionate Couples Do Differently

Hint: It might involve a closed door, a dice roll and a feather duster. Therapists reveal the habits they see in the strongest and happiest relationships.

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One of the best ways to achieve something is to learn from those already doing it. So if you want a healthy, loving relationship, look to the folks who already have it: happy couples. While you could ask couples you know who seem happy, remember, just because something looks a certain way doesn’t mean it’s true. A better bet is to turn to couples therapists. They have an outside perspective and see the good, the bad and the downright ugly in relationships. We asked them to share the habits they observe in the happiest couples. Try these tips. They will improve your love life.

Their fights are healthier. Yes, happy couples fight like any other couple. The difference is they don’t let things get so out of hand that they’re taking low blows, calling each other names or engaging in other disrespectful behavior, says QuaVaundra Perry, Ph.D., a board-certified psychologist who specializes in couples and family psychology at Perry Psychological & Consultation Services in Dallas. “Happy couples are able to talk about whatever the subject is, learn from each other’s perspective and not let the fight color the entirety of their relationship,” she says.

They trust each other. People in healthy relationships don’t worry themselves sick about what their partner does when they’re not around. They establish boundaries and then trust, not blindly, but within reason, says Cherrelle Shorter, L.C.S.W., a licensed therapist at Therapy Juice Bar, a virtual therapy service for Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama residents. “It’s about having faith that your partner will ultimately conduct themselves in a way that makes you feel proud and won’t have you out here looking like a fool,” Shorter says.

They communicate honestly. “Happy couples are honest in their communication and make space for even hard conversations,” says Kasey King, a licensed marriage and family therapist at Lavender Healing Center in Fort Worth, Texas. They navigate tough topics in a kind, respectful and constructive way. Also, “They’re okay with being vulnerable because they have trust in the way their partner will respond,” King says.

They say “I’m sorry.” People in even the best unions mess up sometimes. However, they apologize and have no problem holding themselves accountable, King says, which is why their slipups don’t sour the relationship.

They’re tuned in to each other’s love language. King says many folks give love the way they like to give (and receive) it. However, people feel loved in different ways. In great relationships, couples learn each other’s love language and love the partner the way they prefer, King says.

They compliment each other. The happiest couples verbalize the good in each other, Dr. Perry says. “You’re so great at …” or “Thank you so much for …” goes a long way. Complimenting one another reinforces the positive behaviors, Dr. Perry says. Plus, research shows people who feel appreciated by their partner are more appreciative of their partner.

They prioritize together time. Despite their busy lives, thriving couples make time for quality time. It doesn’t have to be some big or expensive event. Dates, working out together, walks after dinner, dancing in the living room, couples’ game night (hello, dice!) they all count. “It’s about spending time with each other and just enjoying each other’s presence,” King says.

Still, they have their own hobbies and interests. “Happy couples are happy and whole because they’re happy and whole individually,” Shorter says. Each person does solo activities, spends time with family and friends, and participates in hobbies they enjoyed before the relationship, she says. Having their own thing going helps them maintain a sense of self and makes them more interesting to their love.

They have sex regularly. That’s however often is necessary to keep both partners satisfied, says King, who’s also a sex therapist. What’s important is happy couples make time for sex and understand it’s about the connection, not just an orgasm, she says.

Also, because sex can become routine over time, these couples explore intimacy outside of intercourse, Shorter says. Think cuddling, sensual touch, couples’ tantric yoga. Close the door, shut out distractions and pleasure each other.

They share household duties. In successful relationships, there’s balance when it comes to who does what around the house (like tidying up with that feather duster). Happy couples divide tasks in a way in which everything gets taken care of without one partner shouldering most of the work (and eventually becoming resentful), Shorter says.

Their conversations get deep. In a long-term relationship, it’s easy to get stuck talking about work, the kids, to-dos, finances and not much else. Happy twosomes talk about their goals and dreams and ask deeper questions, which sparks more meaningful conversations, King says. It also helps them stay connected.