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7 Golden Rules of Happy Couples

Is there a couple on this planet which does not crave joy in a relationship? From hormonally charged teens to wise and lovable nonagenarians, all are in pursuit of that fleeting emotion called happiness. By Smita Shenoy

Forget love…I’d rather fall in chocolate! This T-Shirt graffiti says it all. The pains of finding contentment in a relationship seem much greater than the potential gains to be derived from it. But seeking happiness is not a gargantuan task; in fact, humour lurks in every corner, in seemingly trivial and mundane things. It is up to the partners to prise it out from the corners and make it an integral part of their lives.

“Laughter is in many ways one of life’s greatest mysteries. It’s common enough that we see it as an everyday fact of life, but we don’t really understand it. We just accept that laughter happens, and we like it. We generally take it for granted until it’s not around. Then we really miss it,” says US based laughter therapist Enda Junkins, author of Belly Laughter in Relationships.

“Sometimes, when I remember the good times in my own marital misadventure, I know that I miss the laughter we shared, and I am sad that I missed its vital significance in prolonging my relationship. As a professional counsellor and laughter therapist, I am acutely aware of laughter’s importance today and advocate its necessity to all the couples I counsel,” Enda says.

Commitment gets thumbs up
First things first! It’s official! All commitment phobes have a great reason to settle down in holy matrimony. Recent research suggests that married couples tend to be happier and to live longer than single people. According to a study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, being married is associated with higher self-esteem, greater life satisfaction, more happiness and less stress, whereas people who are not in stable romantic relationships tend to report lower self-esteem, less contentment, less happiness and more distress. Interestingly, the study reveals that even those in relatively unhappy marriages appear to benefit from being married perhaps because they benefit from marriage's stability, commitment and social status. So now we know the road to happiness passes via the altar. Happy marriages, however, require a lot of work. Here are some golden rules that happy spouses swear by and which will help put you on the right path to happiness.

Golden Rule No.1 - Sharing is caring
32 year old Linda, homemaker and mother of two toddlers, laments, “Paul has changed lately. He is not interested in helping me out with any of the household activities nor does he spend any time with the kids. I am left at home to fend with everything.” Linda’s woes are shared by a major chunk of the female brigade. The seemingly disproportionate distribution of domestic chores is a contributing factor of strife between couples. Relationship counsellor Madhu says, “The lady of the house has the full right to feel short changed but spare a thought for the man too. After spending close to ten hours in office, meeting deadlines, making projects and presentations, planning strategies, appeasing the bosses and what not, he reaches home sweet home only to find it bitter with acrimony and accusations of not being a good spouse and father. Result – he blows his fuse and there is a full fledged verbal battle on with neither party willing to give in or give up.”

But all is not lost. According to Madhu, there is a simple solution to the problem. “While it is true that the new age woman can multitask efficiently, juggling tasks relentlessly can leave even the best of them stressed out and this has a telling effect on family life. Chalking out a work plan can help as much at home as it does in office. Hire a maid for keeping the house spic and span; employ a cook to take care of the meals; turn Saturday mornings into market outings and shop for the entire week’s provisions in peace while hubby dear gives the kids a tour of the supermarket. While the children zip around in the shopping carts, you can stock up on rations. If both partners put their heads together they can definitely come up with a strategy that gets work done effectively and gives them ample free time to spend with each other,” she advises.

Golden Rule No.2 – Drop your expectations A golden rule that happy couples follow is to have zero expectations from each other. “The moment you try to change your partner into something he is not you start driving the nails in the coffin. Accept him for what he is; after all that is what attracted you to him in the first place. And remember, unconditional acceptance works both ways. If he makes unrealistic demands, put your foot down and say this is how you are and that he has to learn to love you just the way you are,” explains Madhu.

Enda, who also runs the popular web site www.laughtertherapy.com says, “Laughter helps lower expectations. When we laugh with the person we love, criticism seems to collapse. We are able to let them be themselves and enjoy them even more for that. As laughter opens us up and allows us to be vulnerable, we become willing to make changes. We no longer need to keep score of the good things we do for our partners. We lose track, and we don’t even care. Laughter, supporting our love, makes us generous to a fault, and we feel better giving than receiving.”

Golden Rule No.3 - Never take arguments to bed Sort out your differences before hitting the sack. Fights left pending multiply in geometric progression and soon minor spats transform into battles royale. Take fighting in the right spirit not as a sport of one-upmanship. Gloating over your victory or cribbing about losing will only drive more wedges into the relationship. Yelling and making hurtful statements are strict no-nos in the Happy Couple Fight rule book.

Maintain a fight journal. When you are feeling particularly angry with your partner, make an entry in it. Start with his bad points. Initially your pen will fly fast and furiously on paper but soon his positives will take over and the bad points will reduce to a trickle.

Saying sorry after the quarrel will make you feel light-hearted at having thrashed out the differences. Keep communication channels open; always speak up about what you want and be happy about it.

Golden Rule No.4 - Return of Respect Once the sheen of novelty wears off in a relationship, most couples start taking each other for granted. “Never do that, always respect your partner. Confide your fears and phobias in him and ask him for advice and value it. Of course, talking your problems with him doesn’t give you the licence to become a clingy perpetual moaner,” warns Madhu.

Golden Rule No.5 - Happy Sex Physically active couples have more fun, reveals a study. Sex brings the partners closer and leaves them feeling on top of the world. But sex does not have to always mean wild romps in bed. Tender gestures matter equally. The simple art of touching and hugging can rekindle the sparks and keep the two of you blissful. Lovemaking can do wonders for your looks too. Rosy lips, dimpled chin, eyes are blue, lovely too - these are the positive effects of staying physically happy.

Golden Rule No.6 - Genuine Warmth Happiness is important to sustain any tie but the feeling has to be bona fide. “Don’t fake it at any cost. A genuine grin crinkles the area around your eyes and can be easily distinguished from a plastic smile,” says Madhu.

Enda advises, “Develop your sense of humour. The ability to laugh at yourself is a huge positive and can easily infuse a tremendous sense of happiness into a relationship.”

Golden Rule No.7 – I, Me, Myself ‘Me’ time is as vital as ‘we’ time. As much as you love going for long walks, movies and holidays together, the fact remains that you need your personal space. Being in each other’s hair all day long is not good for a healthy association. Doing your own thing once in a while keeps the flames alive. And even when together talking nineteen to the dozen doesn’t have to be the norm. A slice of companionable silence is absolutely fine.

Enda Junkin’s laughter tips for relationships

1. Laugh together for 5-10 minutes each morning. Have a laughter match to see who can laugh loudest and longest. Consciously smile at each other more.

2. Do one loving and light-hearted thing for each other each day.

3. Point out the day's absurdities to each other.

4. Seek out the humour in serious situations and share it with each other.

5. Take turns being responsible for the humorous thought for the day.

6. Put more fun into sex.

7. Giggle together right before going to sleep.

8. Play "Teasing Telephone Tag" by leaving outrageous messages. Develop a fictional phone menu for different laughs. Press 1 for giggles, press 2 for chuckles, press 3 for guffaws, etc.

9. List the positive things in your day each day and read them to each other.

10. Revisit your childhood. Play together one hour a week. Examples: Sing, dance, race each other, give exaggerated hugs, count smiling faces when driving together.

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