I am still considered a newlywed. My husband and I have been married for a year and a half and I can assure you, not all our days have been as bliss-filled as I would like it to be. Things will be good for a small amount of time, then things will literally feel like it’s falling apart as life inevitably gets busy causing us to spend less and less time with each other, and with less time, distance builds and connection wanes. It’s the nature of the beast. To me, it’s a tough pill to swallow, because in my world, human connection, especially the connection and intimacy between lovers is what makes life worth living. I simply won’t settle for less than stellar and am constantly trying to find ways to bridge the marriage gap. Sometimes I succeed, and sometimes I fail miserably, but what keeps me going is this deep rooted desire to be better, and to live an inspired life, fully connected to those that I love.

These simple reminders are great. Write it on post it notes and post it on the bathroom mirror, in your closet, in your car, set it as a background image for your phone, whatever it takes.

Happiness within a Relationship – 20 ways to nurture Love and Live Happily

1. Treat each moment you see each other as though it could be your last.
“Treasure each other in the recognition that we do not know how long we shall have each other.” ~ Joshua Loth Liebman

2. Pay attention.
Awareness precedes happiness. Pay attention to your love as you did when you first met. Listen with your ears and your heart. Notice body language, notice facial expressions, notice tone of voice, notice what makes him or her happy and do more of it. Love is giving attention. Giving someone your time is the most expensive gift you can give.

3. Be gentle when you are about to offer critique.
“Advice is seldom welcome; and those who want it the most always like it the least.” ~ Lord Chesterfield
Two people who love each other deeply over a lifetime will encounter many situations where constructive criticism is almost necessary. If offered in a gentle way, it can build bridges and enhance understanding, and ultimately intimacy. The more we practice the habit of speaking kindly, the better we can be understood. Leave out the “you never” or “you always”. It is not a good way to begin a sensitive conversation. When you are on the receiving end of constructive criticism, know that the other is not intentionally trying to hurt you. Within that wisdom, let yourself stretch a bit. Stretch to improve. Respect the other for sharing difficult sentiments and embrace the words offered.

4. Encourage each other to do someone thing that boosts their happiness every single day.
Make a list of what makes you happy. Have your partner do the same. Share your lists with each other. Learn and grow. Encourage your partner to do something that makes him or her happy every day. When two independent people are mutually happy, both of your lives are deeply enriched. Ideally, there should be a parallel happiness where you are both equally thriving in a sportive environment.

5. Begin each encounter with each other (phone or in person) with a smile.
“A genuine smile gives us hope, freshness.” ~ Dalai Lama
It takes more muscles to frown. Be mindful of the power of your smile to increase happiness – yours and others’. When you wake up smiling, share that morning smile with your love. It sets the tone immediately to be one of love and peace. When your partner enters the room, look up from whatever you are doing or reading and smile. When you arrive home from work, take an extra two seconds and smile at your loved one. Smiles leads to kisses. No words can ever truly capture the depth of the love in our hearts. A smile is nonverbal communication that speaks volumes.

6. Know yourself.
Get to know your core identity, what truly matters in your heart. Begin every day with the intention to take care of yourself first so that you may be able to take care of others. If we want to be a light to others, we have to first be the light to ourselves. Once we grow to understand our true self, we can meet others from our heart center to theirs. When we honor our differences, one to another, we’re capable of great happiness. “Accepting that the core of your being is as precious and wonderful as that of any other person is the greatest gift you can ever give yourself.” ~ Joan Borysenko

7. Don’t discuss your intimacy and secrets with others.
Whenever you talk about your private a matters with others, you are violating trust and confidence. Guard your love’s sacred trust and heart. When we discuss intimacy and secrets with others, it’s most often disparaging of your partner. Anything negative about one of you reflects badly on you both. Being able to keep your secrets will assure mutual confidence and deepen your love.

8. When you are alone, be together.
Marriage is simply raised consciousness. When we value these moments of tender connection, we should aim to be present, fully present in every encounter. When we are able to really be together, we have the feeling of belonging, of being an important part of each other. When we show interest in each other without interruptions, we will live with greater harmony. “Technology…the knack of so arranging the world that we don’t have to experience it.” ~ Max Frisco

9. Encourage adventures.
There are places to go, exciting things to see and experience. Encourage adventure…you’ll have more to talk about as you age, fondly remembering the adventures you took and the memories you made together.

10. White lies are always dangerous.
“He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time,till at length it becomes habitual; he tells his lies without attending to it, and truths without the world’s believing him. His falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time deprives all it’s good disposition.” ~ Thomas Jefferson
An untruth is something false, it is a lie. When someone falsifies, there is dishonesty, distrust, and deception. White lies diminish our being a dependable, reliable, trusted, love person. I believe in telling the truth. There are no times when a white lie does one a favor. When both are in the habit of always being true to your word, it attunes you more to each other. You feel connected on a more meaningful level. White lies can often be felt by the other…don’t cheat them from the truth and don’t cheat yourself from an opportunity to build more intimacy and trust.

11. Give the gift of eye contact.
Eyes are the gateway to the soul. My heart melts when someone looks me in the eyes. Eye contact is a gift because when we look at each other, we are engaging our souls. When someone looks deeply into our eyes, we feel comforted without being interrupted. We feel a shared empathy. On the other end, when someone doesn’t take the time to look at you, it almost feels like rejection. Simple eye contact shows respect and acknowledges the presence of the other person and is a gift you give yourself as you share a sensuous present moment.

12. Offer to help.
We feel better ourselves when we do something for others. Offer to help with a willing heart. The more we give, the more we receive. We help ourselves by helping out our partner. We help our partner love more by receiving their help. “What may I do to help you right now?”

13. Stop disappearing.
“Silence breaks the heart.” ~ Phyllis McGinley
Say you need a break. Communicate your needs but don’t simply vanish. Disappearance can take many forms. You can physically disappear, or you can stonewall by not addressing the pink elephant in the room. Ignoring it and being silent about it only sends the message that you don’t care. You are a couple seeking greater happiness together; there shouldn’t be these incidents of disconnection that either worry the other person or makes the other person feel abandoned. Work on your communication skills. At the end of the day, it is our ability to communicate lovingly and effectively that builds intimacy, or dissolves it.

14. Stop the teasing.
Teasing can lead to quarreling, fault-finding and a disruptive argument. Teasing is really not funny. The taser is making fun of you, not making fun. While a remark or two might appear innocent, it can end up as a toxic poke. Especially if times are sensitive already. Teasing keeps relationships insincere and superficial. Keep this to a minimum. Replace with a loving compliment and you’ll receive much more in return.

15. Sincerely say you are sorry.
“There is something in humility which strangely exalts the heart.” ~ Saint Augustine
When we sincerely say “I’m sorry”, it clears the air. Saying you are sorry when you mean it is soothing because it releases the other person from being upset. When we express our regret about something we wish could have been different, we are expressing our compassion and empathy. People who have difficulty saying they’re sorry suffer from feelings of insecurity. Until you genuinely say you are sorry, you are withdrawing your love while inflicting pain. In a relationship, it is better to say you’re sorry even for a vague misunderstanding where you don’t quite know how it happened. Remember what’s important. Harmony. Connection. Whenever there is slight disconnection, be eager to say you’re sorry, be forgiving of yourself and your partner, and be grateful as you move forward.

16. Don’t correct each other in public.
Sometimes we forget that we can engage with each other when we are out in public with friends. Conversations don’t have to exclude each other, in fact, engage each other and don’t take the wind out of the other’s sails by chiming in and correcting an error. Allow each other to be more playful in social settings and be as supportive as possible of the way your love expresses himself or herself in public. If your partner tells a joke, don’t laugh before the punch line, or worse, give it before he or she does. Obviously there will be some jokes you’ve heard before. So what? Love each other in public and it’ll build appreciation. Talk each other up in front of others. Show him or her that you are proud of her and don’t be afraid to compliment each other to others in front of your love. Yes. Make an effort to praise him or her in front of others and leave the correcting to be done kindly at home if necessary.

17. Set aside certain times for serious discussions.
There are times in all relationships when you will have conversations that are serious and where life changes will transpire. Timing is critical. Once you set a time to discuss, cultivate your mood. Be receptive. When you are both open to new ways to improve your happiness, your relationship and intimacy can soar to new heights. Speak from your heart, and be prepared. Write down notes of what you want to address. Take notes. Be tender with each other as sensitive communication is the wisest way for two lovers to seek and find lasting unity. “We talk little, if we do not talk about ourselves.” ~ William Hazlitt

18. Say it’s okay.
“We forgive so long as we love.” ~ La Rochefoucauld
We often make mistakes and letting our partner off the hook can pay dividends. There are certainly times where overlooking does more harm than good but for smaller offenses, say, “It’s okay” and move on. Rise above the endless little things. Be quick to forgive. It is our advantage to turn the other cheek because when we forgive others, we are happier. Forgiveness frees us, costs is nothing, and is the trademark of a noble soul. Let this golden rule enlarge your spirit as you say, “it’s okay.”

19. Discover and rediscover each other’s passions.
Learn to encourage your partner to stretch, to grow, to courageously explore all that peaks their interest. Encourage them to be true to the person they are now, not who they used to be or who they were under their parents’ influence. We need each other’s encouragement to become the amazing human being our soul wants us to be. Open your eyes to what makes your partner happy. Encourage them to do more of it. Learn to join them in their joy and passions. Find things that make you both passionate to enjoy together. When we experience new things together, we grow closer. When we take an interest in the other person’s passions, we are momentarily invited into their world to join them in their happiness!

20. Too busy to notice you’re too busy?
Then you’re going to be too busy to notice your relationship falling apart. Your career may be important work in your lifetime, but I can guarantee you that success in your relationship will yield greater joy. Re-prioritize your relationship to be equally, if not more than your “work”. Invest time, invest energy, and treat it as something that you need to water and nurture every single day. You’ll be glad you did in the long run.

Adapted from Alexandra Stoddard’s “Happiness for two”.