“Love is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.” -Robert Heinlein
It turns out that showing up for your partner in the happy moments of life might create more staying power in your relationship than being a reliable support in hard times. While we all need someone at our back when things are rough, it is actually having someone truly celebrate our successes with us that correlates most strongly with healthy long term relationships.
It isn’t surprising that happy couples are usually made up of individuals who tend to be more positive and focused on the good in their lives. Looking for and celebrating ways to feel joyful together builds more cohesion than commiserating about how bad it all is. Experiencing positive emotions with someone close to you dismantles the boundaries between you and shifts your core view of your relationships, it brings them closer to your heart.
We have all had those times when you are really excited about something that happened in your day and after a burst of excited explanation, you get a distracted “That’s nice honey.” This kind of passive response shows a lack of interest, which can be almost as damaging as a disparaging remark to a partner’s good news. Feeling like what matters to you is of little interest to your partner damages the relationship in ways that can be invisible to both people. The quiet erosion of disinterest takes its toll on both partners willingness to communicate and feelings of connection.
Even an active destructive remark, like “Wow, do you think that might be too much work for you?” in response to getting a new job can be heard more readily as support. Taking an active roll in your partner’s happiness pays big dividends. It is easy in the midst of my four kids’ complicated lives for me to get so overwhelmed that I forget to listen for my husband’s small victories. He retreats to his corner and I to mine and the small annoyances of trying to live together blossom.
Another important way to combat the complacency and disinterest that can grow through benign neglect is to actively express gratitude for the small things that warm up your relationship. In recent positive psychology studies, results showed that both the giver and receiver of appreciation expressed greater satisfaction with their relationship and stronger feelings of connectedness even days following the act of gratitude.
Feeling seen and appreciated makes us more positive and makes love real.