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The Three Components of a Happy Relationship

Who doesn’t want to be in a happy relationship? Don’t worry, it can be done. Psychologists who study what makes for a successful, happy and loving relationship have narrowed it down to three components:

  • Passion: “I’m crazy about her.”

  • Shared interests: “We enjoy the same things — travel, golf.”

  • Intimacy: “I feel really close to him.”

Think of your relationship as a three-legged stool. If all three legs are in place, you have a secure feeling. If not, the relationship gets a bit wobbly!

A relationship that’s based on a combination of passion and intimacy but lacks shared interests is said to be a romantic relationship. A relationship that combines intimacy and shared interests but lacks physical passion is seen as a companionate relationship. And a relationship that combines passion and shared interests, but lacks intimacy, is referred to as a shallow or fatuous (silly) relationship. What kind of stool are you sitting on?

Passion and happiness

In the three-legged stool analogy, passion is physical passion — the feeling of arousal you get when your partner walks into the room and catches your eye. Your heart begins to pump faster, your blood pressure goes up, and everything about you gets turned on from head to toe. This also refers to the sexual interaction that comes from such feelings — holding hands, touching, and having sex. Passion is about excitement!

Rate how you feel about your partner on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 being no passion at all, and 10 being passion through the roof). Now, using this same scale, rate how you think your partner feels about you — better yet ask your partner! How do your ratings match up?

Are they within a point or two of each other, or has one of you said 3 and the other said 9? Do you both feel that there’s enough passion in your relationship?

Passion doesn’t have to be sex. You can be passionate with your partner in a myriad of ways.

Shared interests and happiness

The best thing about having a partner who shares your interests is that you have a built-in playmate, someone to enjoy life with. Teach each other about your hobbies or take different roles in the same activity.

On a scale from 1 to 10 (where 1 means you and your partner have no shared interests, and 10 means you do everything together), rate the degree to which you and your partner’s interests overlap. Ask your partner how he or she would rate this facet of your relationship.

If you’re on the low end (1 to 4) as far as shared interests go, try cultivating an interest in one thing that your partner enjoys. Ask him what he likes about that activity and if that’s something he thinks you could learn to like. Learn all you can about the activity — the more you know, the more it may appeal to you.

If he’s an avid golfer and you’re not, maybe you could both work as volunteers at a PGA golf tournament in your area. Or, find a new activity that neither you nor your partner have been involved in before but which interests you both.

Intimacy and happiness

When most people see the word intimacy, they immediately think of sex. But the kind of intimacy that leads to happiness in a relationship involves much more than sex. It means

  • Having a closeness not found in other relationships

  • Knowing the other person’s secrets — secret wishes, desires, fear, and vulnerabilities

  • Being cozy, warm, friendly, and comfortable

  • Sharing confidences about things that matter most in life

  • Communicating in an informal way

  • Allowing each other to penetrate your innermost selves

  • Sharing yourselves emotionally

  • Knowing everything there is to know about each other

  • Letting your guard down — and trusting that your partner won’t take advantage of you

  • Thinking of the two of you as “one”

On a scale of 1 to 10 (where 1 is no intimacy at all, and 10 is absolutely intimate), how would your rate your relationship? Ask your partner to rate your relationship, too.

If your relationship is short on intimacy, make a point of having some time alone with each other every day. For example, take a short walk together after dinner — 30 minutes tops. Once a month, just the two of you go away somewhere “special” to catch up on each other’s lives. Spend 10 minutes of time cozying up to one another after you wake up.

Intimacy doesn’t require a lot of talk — just holding each other quietly for a few minutes can speak volumes about how you feel about each other.

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