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Friday, February 6, 2015

Healthy, Happy Couples Employ these 5 Traits

If he gives you chocolate, don't ask him if you look fat
"He seems to think treating me well is some sort of rocket science!" my colleague said, recalling a recent argument with her on-again, off-again boyfriend as she broke off a piece of dark chocolate and wearily slumped in her chair.

As Valentine’s Day approached, my colleagues and I sat in our gym’s break room recollecting horror stories and magical moments but also speculating why relationships often prove needlessly complicated.

I’ve read a ton of self-help books, watching more than my fair share of Dr. Phil and Intervention, and even attended seminars. I should be well versed in relationships by now. If only there were a science behind human interaction…

Well, there is. As an unapologetic science nerd, I began scouring studies that reveal how healthy, mutually satisfying relationships stay afloat but also evolve over time. From that
research, I learned healthy, happy couples employ these five traits.

1.      They stay fitness minded together. As a personal trainer, you know I had to put this one first. A one-year study published in The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found married couples that worked out together had higher attendance and lower dropout than those who didn’t. Makes sense, considering who we surround ourselves with shapes us (literally!). Plus you’re more inclined to get your butt off the coach when your partner offers motivation, support, and accountability.

2.     They maintain a sense of humor. Keeping an appropriate sense of humor can remove the sharp edges when relationships become tense. One study published in the journal Personal & Social Psychology Bulletin, appropriately titled “It's in the way that you use it: attachment and the dyadic nature of humor during conflict negotiation in romantic couples,” looked at how couples use humor to deal relationship conflicts. Turns out folks who avoid confrontation used more aggressive humor (hello, passive aggressive!), whereas those who felt anxious used more self-defeating humor. Aggressive and self-defeating humor got the thumbs down. Affiliative humor – ultimately creating a bond that brings two people closer – was well received among significant others. The take home: avoid sarcasm (at your expense or theirs) and make sure you’re laughing with them, not at them.

3.     They act selflessly without being a doormat. A study in Social Science & Medicine found being in a relationship could transform motivation from doing what’s in your best interest to what’s best for the relationship. That transformation could spill over into other areas of your life, like being more empathetic and thoughtful at work or with your family. Being kind and selfless doesn’t mean becoming a doormat, which serves neither you nor your significant other.

4.     They use prayer (or some sort of spiritual center). A study in Physiological Science found praying could increase feelings of forgiveness for romantic partners. Those who prayed regularly increased forgiveness as well as selfless concern over four weeks. If prayer isn’t your thing, you might substitute meditation or mindfulness. When you stay tuned in to your partner’s needs, you’re more apt to find forgiveness for their less-than-perfect actions and maybe even some self-forgiveness in the bargain.

5.     They compliment sincerely. A study conducted by the Dental Care Plus Implant Centres asked 2,000 men and women about the best and worst compliments to give a womanThe worst? “You look well.” Complimenting her smile or telling her she looks gorgeous got raves, but the number one answer that almost 40 percent of women loved was "You look thinner than usual." Whatever you do, avoid fake sincerity and think very carefully before you reply to questions like “Do I look fat in this dress?”

This Valentine’s Day, give your significant other a heartfelt compliment, put their needs before your own, use prayer or some sort of spiritual centeredness if you’re feeling resentment or hurt, and keep your sense of humor when turbulence strikes. Oh, and hit the gym with your significant other!

What one attribute to maintain a healthy relationship would you put on this list? Share yours below or on my Facebook fan page. Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! Whether you’re in a relationship or flying solo, remember to love yourself foremost.

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Fitness expert and strength coach Jini Cicero, CSCS, teaches intermediate exercisers how to blast through plateaus to create incredible transformations. Are you ready to take your fitness to a whole new level?  Find out now!  Take Jini's "Are you Ready?" Quiz at© 2011 Jinifit, Inc.

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