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How to Be Happy in a Relationship: The Ultimate Guide

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Want to level up your relationships? Look no further! In this guide, you’ll find juicy relationship advice to truly take control of your relationships. To help with this guide is John Howard, an international therapist and the author of More Than Words.

Let’s dive in!

The Five Pillars of Love

A groundbreaking study using data sets from 11,196 couples pinpointed the five factors that are important to romantic relationship satisfaction:

The 5 pillars of love infographic
  1. Perceived partner commitment, which ranked at the top of the list
  2. Appreciation
  3. Sexual satisfaction
  4. Perceived partner satisfaction
  5. Conflict

To keep things more PG-rated, #3 will be omitted for now. Do you feel like your partner is committed? Do you both appreciate each other? Are you satisfied with the relationship? Is there conflict involved?

Keep these 5 pillars in mind when reading these tips:

Utilize Transition Moments

Transition moments are the key times during the day where people have a dramatic shift in activities. The 3 biggest transition moments for most people are after work, before going to sleep, and right after waking up.

During transition moments, it might be extra important to pay close attention to your partner and give them close attention.

This often means dropping our phones—which can be especially hard, especially for couples who like to use their phones in bed.

Connection isn’t dependent on the amount of time, but the quality of time you spend with your spouse.

If you’re always on your phone during transition moments, studies show that “Pphubbing,” or “partner phone snubbing,” can actually lower satisfaction in relationships and even create more conflict.

Action Steps: Tonight or the next morning, try putting your phone away for the last 15 minutes before sleeping or the first 15 minutes after waking up. Use this time to cuddle your partner or read a life-changing book together instead!

Trust Your Sixth Sense

Most people have heard about something called a “sixth sense.”. But it’s really just nonverbal communication in effect.

That feeling when you’re on a dinner date and “feel” that something’s not quite right, or you’re talking to a coworker who says they’re doing great but you have a sneaking suspicion that something’s off—this is our brain subconsciously analyzing body language.

Before being consciously aware of it, we already have a “sixth sense” of whether we like someone or not.

In fact, body language accounts for a whopping 65-90% of all communication. Arms crossed over the chest, turning the torso towards the exit, and anger or contempt facial microexpressions are all subtle body language signals you can observe that may indicate negative emotions.

Action Step: Study body language and when you spot the negative emotions, use conflict-resolution strategies to calm the situation.

Hug Before Talking

Imagine you’re coming home from a day of work and see your significant other. What is the first thing you say or do to them?

This scenario is called the “Welcome Home Test” and it was developed by Dr. Stan Tatkin, author of Wired for Love. He suggests that couples that hug before talking, with a belly-to-belly connection, feel more “synchronized” with each other’s emotions. Hugging can even help prevent arguments from happening.

Action Step: The next time you come back home from a long day at work/the gym/with your friends, don’t talk; don’t multitask. Try giving them a warm hug first before doing anything else.

Focus on Quality Time

Quality time is one of the Five Love Languages and people who like quality time enjoy deep 1-on-1 personal connection.

But people generally are not great at multitasking—one study found that only 2.5% of people were able to multitask effectively. Multitasking in the face of  someone who loves quality time can nonverbally tell them, “I don’t care.”

Action Step: Does your partner value quality time? Find out by taking the Love Language Test together! Aim to spend at least 5 minutes each day truly being there for your partner.

Work on Yourself

Actor Terry Crews had a persistent pornography addiction that almost led to the end of his 30-year marriage.

“I was addicted to pornography since I was 12 years old. Let me tell you. My father was addicted to alcohol and my mother was addicted to religion. So what happens is you had an addictive household.”

—Terry Crews

So what did he do when his marriage was on the brink of divorce? Terry Crews began working on himself. He signed up for rehab and that changed his life forever. Check out the video where he talks about his addiction here:

Action Step: Whether you have an addiction or are slacking in some areas of your life, improvement is a life-long journey. Apply the appropriate steps to become the best version of yourself and always keep improving!

The 70/30 Rule

While being in a relationship is great, couples might make the mistake of spending either too much time together or too much time apart. Being together might be obvious, but being apart from each other can help you not only work on yourself, but keep that “spark” alive in your relationship.

Action Step: Apply the 70/30 Rule mentioned by teacher Garett Coan—spending 70% of your time together and 30% of it separately.

Ask The Deep Questions

Research shows there are a set of deep questions you can use to truly connect with someone on a deep level. Here are a few questions you can ask for starters:

  • “What would constitute a perfect day for you?”
  • “If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future, or anything else, what would you want to know?”
  • “What is your most treasured memory?”

Action Step: Read up on the deep questions. Have a dinner night planned and go over them or aim to ask one question every night before bed.

The Pickle Joke

The verdict is in: couples who laugh more tend to have happier relationships. Even if you’re not naturally funny or in a joking mood, you can utilize a few key tips to add laughter into your relationship.

Action Steps: Find your Pickle Joke. A Pickle Joke is an “inside” joke couples or close friends might use with each other. They’ll understand what the joke means, but others usually won’t (they might even think you’re weird). Pickle Jokes are an excellent way to have a shared experience with a romantic partner.

You can also choose funny over serious when choosing your next movie to watch together. Fire up your favorite comedy movie or find a new one to add some laughter!

Pro Tip: Want to be naturally funnier? There is a way! Check out these masterful humor tips to become a comedic wizard.

Deep Eye Gaze

Try looking deeply into your partner’s eyes and saying the things you are most grateful for. The real, deep, nitty-gritty things that you’d want to tell your partner if you were never able to see them again. Saying grateful things are what make relationships stronger and build a deep, emotional connection.

Action Step: Try it out now! This small tip might only take a few minutes, but building up this weekly habit can change your relationship forever.

Pro Tip: Have a hard time saying these things? Write them down instead and pass the note over to your partner!

Take a Couple’s Retreat

A couple’s retreat is a special event where you and your partner take some time off from life’s obligations r in order to discuss your relationship. You can think of a couple’s retreat like a team-building retreat, except on a much more personal level.

Action Step: Plan your next couple’s retreat. Whether it’s a weekend event or a quiet afternoon picnic in the park, use this time to actively talk about your relationship—what you’ve accomplished, where you’re headed, what your expectations are, and everything else in-between. Use this opportunity as a reset!

8 Signs You’re in a Loving Relationship

Here are some healthy signs of a loving relationship:

  1. You both know how to prevent arguments and minimize the damage if one occurs.
  2. You both know each other’s love language and demonstrate that.
  3. If you were both forced to cut off contact from each other for 2 years, you’re confident you would still remain together afterwards.
  4. Your future plans often involve each other.
  5. You’re not afraid to tell them the truth.
  6. When something amazing happens to you, they are the first person you usually want to let know.
  7. If you were lying in your death bed, your partner would be one of the first things that comes to mind.
  8. You feel comfortable showing your gross/funny/wild/sad/angry/etc. side to them.

Loving Relationships Takeaway

That’s a wrap! Keep in mind these 5 takeaways as you progress in your relationship:

  1. Focus on quality time. Minimize multitasking during the 3 main transition moments of the day (after waking up, when you are finished with work, and right before bed) and spend undistracted time with your partner.
  2. Work on yourself. Try to utilize the 70/30 rule by spending 70% of your time together and the other 30% away, preferably working on yourself or getting rid of bad habits.
  3. Make use of body language. Hug your partner before talking with them and make deep eye contact for better rapport.
  4. Utilize humor. Pick funny movies and create those “insider” jokes that only the two of you know.
  5. Take a couple’s retreat. Use the retreat as a time to focus on your relationship and discuss how things are going.

And if you’re moving in with your partner or will be soon, check out this ultimate guide: 10 Tips You Absolutely NEED To Know Before Moving in Together

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