“Are you happy?”
Being happy. It’s the calling card of good relationships.
If you’re with someone who’s good for you, then you’re going to be happy … right?
There’s an expiry date on relationship-induced happiness. Researchers have found that the bliss of being married only lasts two years. After that, happiness returns to its pre-engagement levels.
The theory of hedonic adaptation suggests that we can get used to anything, good or bad. Even if something amazing happens to us, that brief spike in happiness is only temporary. After it wears off, we feel much like we always do.
Even though it seems as if getting into a great relationship or walking down the aisle would bring you impossible levels of happiness, don’t be surprised if you find the novelty wearing off after a while.
You can become accustomed to anything, including the life of your dreams.
Why does this matter?
It matters because your happiness affects his happiness. He’ll find it tough to be happy in your relationship unless you’re happy, too.
A marital satisfaction survey published in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that a man could be dissatisfied with his marriage but still happy overall, as long as his wife was happy.
If she’s not happy, though, his happiness plummets. Study co-author Deborah Carr suggests a new saying to summarize the findings: “Miserable wife, miserable life.”
Why does a man’s happiness depend so much on his partner’s?
Carr believes it’s because the quality of a relationship is dependent on the woman’s contributions. “If a marriage is good,” she explains, “it often is due to the stuff the wife is doing, the love and support that she’s giving.”
The idea that women carry the relationship won’t be news to many of you. But it carries interesting implications for what happens next…when the happiness-boosting effect of a new relationship wears off.
If you’re generally a happy person, then settling into your relationship won’t noticeably affect your mood.
But if you weren’t overly thrilled with your life before he came into it, you may find it disconcerting when your mood returns to normal after a while.
And he may find it even more difficult to adjust to the change. He’s thinking, “Where’s the woman who was walking on Cloud Nine?”
You need to find some way to hold onto those wonderful feelings. You can’t count on your relationship to make you happy forever. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a dependable source of happiness that you could plug yourself into?
Luckily, there is.
Psychology professor Sonja Lyubomirsky found that a person’s overall state of happiness is determined by three factors:
- Genes – 50%
- Personal outlook – 40%
- Life circumstances – 10%
Surprisingly, the things that happen to you account for only 10% of your overall happiness. That’s a lot less than you might expect.
A much more significant boost to happiness comes from your outlook on life. Look for reasons to be happy, and you’ll find things to smile about everywhere.
Positive psychology investigates how we can optimize our outlook. It’s more than “think positive” and “see the glass as half full.” Techniques such as mindfulness and meditation deliver exciting boosts in productivity, health, and creativity.
Here are three simple ways to feel happier.
- Count your blessings.
Before you go to sleep at night, think of three things that happened that day. Things you feel grateful for. Let those feelings of appreciation sink deep into your bones.
Not only will you go to sleep with a smile on your face, but you’ll wake up on the lookout for new reasons to be grateful.
- Become more aware of your thoughts.
Your thoughts can either lift you up or bring you down. Left to their own devices, they return over and over again to the same painful subjects. Start observing the twists and turns your thoughts take during the day. Notice how many negative thoughts flicker through your mind. Consciously direct your attention back to more positive themes.
- Take control.
Holding onto frustration makes a bad mood linger. Instead, acknowledge your feelings, then let them go. Laughing, even if you don’t feel like it, can put you in a better mood.
Say yes to social occasions, and let the company of other people lift you up. Or choose that surefire happiness booster: watching cute YouTube videos of puppies and kittens.
It’s not so much the silly video that does the trick. It’s a shift from, “I have a right to be grumpy” to…“I’d rather be happy if I can pull it off.”
And the next time someone asks you if you’re happy in your relationship, tell them, “Of course! But I was happy anyway.”
That sound like a relationship built to last.