Rick Foster and Greg Hix have written a wonderful book titled How We Choose To Be Happy. They interviewed hundreds of people and found nine choices, qualities, or states that generate, uncover, and evoke happiness in people. I have added additional comments regarding intimacy to their main choices below.
1) Intention. Foster and Hix found that happy people have an intention to be joyful. In your relationship, how can you bring out your best intention, your highest self, as you relate with your partner? Inside, allow your self to be that joyful person you are, or invite marriage counseling to assist you and yours in finding more joy inside your self, and in the relationship! This is not always an easy task.
2) Accountability. As an adult, uncover the ways you can take increasing responsibility for what happens in your relationship. Through growth work, uncover how you are not a victim regardless of your circumstances. A teacher once spoke to me about being the joyful, peaceful ocean at the bottom, regardless of the storms on the surface. Happy couples learn skills to be more peaceful oceanic people even when there are personal storms on the surface.
3) Identification. Take the time to identify what makes you happy, and what makes your relationship a happy one. Inquire, research, ask, learn, experiment, and test out all your possibilities. The authors suggest you will know what you love when you have taken the time to find out what you uniquely love about your life. In intimacy, find out also what you love about your partner, how they are special and unique to you.
4) Centrality. After you find what you love for your self and in your relationship, Hix and Foster say to make it central in your life. Similarly in relationship, after you find out what you love in your relationship, nurture, explore, and grow the central aspects of your relationship that you both love.
5) Recasting. Good marital therapy can help you “reframe” or recast difficulties so you learn and grow from them instead of getting bogged down. Happy couples can “cast problems in a different light”, a useful tool so the “blame game” can become a thing of the past.
6) Choices or Options. The authors found that happy people have many INTERNAL options or choices as they lived their lives. Learning what your emotional reactions are, and not always going with them, can make a difference in how happy you are with your life and with your relationship. Marital therapy can help you build intimacy and be happier when you find out there are many ways to respond to difficult situations.
Win-win techniques in fair fighting, for example, can lead to more happiness.
7) Appreciation. Happy couples are people who can be grateful with even the small joys in life. For example, I know of people who can still hike, even if they cannot run anymore, and they’re happy about that. Individuals and couples can grow to love life AS IT IS, instead of seeing life as incomplete, which is comparative judgment. Life as it is can be seen as special!
8) Giving. The authors found out that generosity is important to happy people. Couples can also tap in to the normal sweetness that arises within when giving small things with great love. For example, listening, truly paying attention, can be a very generous, loving act. Giving can become compassion in action, which opens the heart as one or two people practice this. This is very different than “giving to get”.
9) Truthfulness. Being honest with oneself is a hallmark of happy people. Aspire to have integrity with yourself, and in your relationship. When you seek a healthy marriage, learn how you can unpeel the layers of old survival habits so your own agreements with your self, and with your partner, don’t have to be broken.
By themselves, the authors nine choices are fantastic. When combined, they form a total greater than the individual choices, which brings about more long-term happiness. Couples commonly ask me how their partner can “make them happy”. Through relationship counseling, couples learn how to make them self happy, which increases happiness in the relationship. It’s important to grow being happy with one self, and to appreciate how that internal solo happiness frees the sexual intimacy with your partner, for the adventure of relationship happiness over time.