Happiness is not so easy to define.
And this makes it extra challenging to define what a happy relationship is (or isn’t).
Some relationships SEEM happy, but they actually aren’t. And some SEEM boring and toxic, but are actually…well, happy.
No wonder many of us are stuck in unfulfilling relationships or are hopping from one partner to another looking for “happiness”.
Luckily, psychologists have spent years—some even decades—researching what constitutes a truly happy relationship.
I’ve dug them up for you so you can assess your relationship better.
Soo…are you ready?
Here are 9 signs you’re in a truly happy relationship according to psychology.
1) You turn toward each other, instead of away
Gottman Institute, an organization dedicated to the research of marriage, conducted a study on 40,000 couples.
They’re able to predict with 94% accuracy whether a relationship will last after observing a couple interact for just 15 minutes.
And these couples are the ones who respond or “turn toward” each other when they’re given an opportunity to engage.
Do you and your partner pay attention and react when one of you sighs, tries to establish eye contact, or says “Honey, come here. Look at this”?
Do you feel like you’re given enough attention?
Then congrats! Science says you’re in a truly happy relationship.
2) You have your own language
Do you have inside jokes, pet names, and silly words that you’ve invented?
Do people around you go “What?! What a weird couple!” because they don’t understand you and so they feel out of place?
You might just be in a truly happy relationship.
It also strengthens the couple’s identity over time.
If you call each other silly pet names, you (and other people) would think you’re a silly couple—and this can make you view your relationship positively.
3) Household chores are split fairly
If you’re like me, you would’ve thought that adequate income, compatible political views and shared interests matter a lot in determining a happy marriage.
And sure, they do.
But you know what matters more? According to a 2007 Pew Research Center poll, it’s sharing household chores.
That’s right—the dishes and the laundry and the trash, baby.
Sharing household chores is in the top three, third only to faithfulness and good sex.
So…do you feel like you and your partner share chores equally?
Do you NOT fight about unwashed dishes, rotting garbage, and who’s cooking for dinner?
Then you’re probably in a truly happy relationship.
4) You both have a life outside the relationship
Eli Finkel, psychologist and writer of books such as All-or-Nothing Marriage, says in order to have a happy marriage, we should not look to our partner for all our existential needs.
In other words, we should have our own life outside our relationship.
Related to this, a study of Stony Brook University researchers concluded that longing and THINKING about our partner when we’re apart from them makes people feel more in love.
It validates the saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder.”
So…if you have your own hobbies, if you regularly meet your friends, if you explore things on your own, you’re likely happier than those who cling to each other 24/7.
5) You touch each other a lot
Speaking of cling, you love to cling to your partner—literally!
In a healthy marriage, touch is used on a daily basis (Parrott & Parrott, 1995)
When I was with my ex, we touched each other a lot at the beginning of our relationship. We kissed, cuddled, tickled, and had a lot of sex.
But as years went by, we don’t even hold hands anymore.
And I don’t know if it’s a result of our decaying relationship or if it’s the other way around.
One thing’s for sure though, a healthy relationship requires touch.
I’m now with a partner where we make sure we touch each other daily. Even if we fight sometimes or we’re not in the mood, we make it a point to at least hug each other in the morning.
Do you touch each other often?
Do you rarely feel touch-deprived?
Do you have a healthy sex life?
Then you’re likely in a truly happy relationship.
6) You’re invested in each other’s personal happiness
When your partner shares good news—say, they got a promotion—do you get excited?
Or do you give them a casual “Wow congrats!” and proceed to think “So does this mean they’re earning more than me now?”
Or “Does this mean he’ll spend more time with his colleague Liza?”
According to psychology, one indicator of a happy relationship is how enthusiastic each partner responds to the other’s good news.
If you’re genuinely happy when your partner is happy and vice versa, then you must be in a truly happy relationship.
7) You fight well
A happy relationship doesn’t mean you don’t bicker and fight.
In fact, arguments can be a normal, and even a healthy part of your relationship, says licensed therapist Jaquinda Jackson.
But what sets happy couples apart from toxic ones is their ability to repair and bond after a fight.
According to relationship expert John Gottman, couples who know how to fight well do the following:
- They communicate to their partner a model that when you’re upset, I listen.
- They don’t leave one another in pain.
- They are very gentle with the way they come on about a conflict.
- They repair by making emotional connections rather than using intellect alone. In other words, for both of them, it’s better to be loving than to be right.
Is this how you fight?
Then chances are that you’re in a truly happy relationship.
8) You try new things together
Novelty is important in long-term relationships, according to Dr. Arthur Aron, a psychologist who has studied the science of love and relationships.
According to his study, couples who do new things instead of sticking to their usual routine are more satisfied in their relationship.
Do you and your partner put in the effort to try new things?
Do you explore new restaurants?
Do you learn something new together?
Do you try new sex positions?
Do you visit at least one new city each year?
If you answer yes to all of these questions, then you’re one lucky chap. Chances are that you’re in a truly happy relationship.
9) You both feel lucky to have each other
And not only that—you express it!
The Gottman Institute says that the phrase “Thank you” is the No. 1 phrase used in successful relationships.
But it’s important that you’re not just being polite or you’re not just doing it because it’s good for your relationship— but that you’re genuinely grateful for the things that they do!
Do you truly like (and not just love) your partner as a person?
Do you feel lucky to have them?
Do you often say thank you or express it in other ways?
Then congrats! You must be in a truly happy relationship.
Did you get 9 out of 9?
Then there’s no doubt about it.
You’re in a truly happy relationship, so don’t ever let them go.
But if you can only relate to a few of the signs in this list, don’t get discouraged.
It doesn’t mean you’re not happy, it just means there are some things that you might want to improve.