Tools for Couples Happiness — 20 February 2011
How couples can enrich each other and intensify their bond

The magic of successful couples has always intrigued us and fascinated researchers. Many myths, theories, speculations and personal opinions have been put forth to answer the question, “What makes for a blissful union between mates?” The search for the elusive formula gets seasoned with ongoing new research findings to aid us in creating the cherished relationship we crave.

Traditionally, marriage satisfaction research focused on what causes couples distress that interferes with their blissful connection. More recent studies have centered on identifying the elements that help married people create and maintain a happy and satisfying union.

University if Virginia Professor E. Mavis Hetherington identified in her marriage study five types of marriages: The Pursuer-Distancer, the Disengaged, the Operatic, the Cohesive-Individuated and the Traditional marriages.

“The Cohesive-Individuated marriages are the yuppie and feminist ideal, characterized by equity, respect, warmth, and mutual support, but also by both partners retaining the autonomy to pursue their own goals and to have their own friends.”

Monmouth University Professor Gary Lewandowski’s research expounds on the notion that mutual enrichments lead to a more satisfactory relationship. His research supports previous findings that sharing experiences, information and ideas bonds couples not only through new experiences, but also through new friends, sharing news and even through casual talks. Lewandowski added the concept of contributing to your partner’s “self-expansion” as a crucial element to happiness.

Conversing well and enhancing each other’s interest in life is paramount in healthy relationships. A woman I know was concerned that during her years of staying at home and caring for the children she may lose the interest of her very dynamic husband who was absorbed in a stimulating profession. She decided to find the time each day to read the paper, listen to the radio and learn something new so she could maintain her partner’s interest and be equally engaging.

Being mindful of resisting inertia and maintaining intellectual and experiential stimulation within the relationship is essential to keeping the “spark” alive. Allowing monotony and overwhelming life tasks to absorb your mind and heart is risky to the vitality of your relationship.

To help your mate be enriched,

• Remember that providing new information, sharing ideas and capturing your partner’s interest on a daily basis is essential to enriching your spouse and creating a vital relationship.
• Maintain an interesting personal and social life. It will feed your esteem and expand your partner’s life as well.
• Suggest new experiences, activities, and fun-filled outings to create a wonderment-filled life that will challenge and reward both of you.
• Be as interesting and interested as possible. It will satisfy your mate’s curiosity and please both of you.
• Discuss controversial topics to sharpen both your and your partner’s logical discourse skills.
• Encourage your spouse to venture into your areas of interest as you do with his/hers.
• Use humor, laughter, and playful behavior to spark curiosity and increase levity. It will bond you in pleasure.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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