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In writing The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, I thought a lot about what I can do to make my romantic life better.

In general, I’m a fan of using milestone days to prompt me to think about changes I might undertake to make myself happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative.

Certain days, such as January 1 or my birthday,  remind me to reflect on my life and my hopes for the future.  Recently, Inauguration Day prompted me to think about the highest ideals of the United States, and how I can live up to them, in my own life.

And Valentine’s Day is a great reminder to think about my romance! My husband Jamie is the love of my life, but sometimes I don’t treat him with courtesy or interest. I have to remind myself — don’t be nicer to a stranger on the street than I am to my own husband. (In fact, research shows that married people often show more consideration to others than they do to each other.)

For instance, I make these relationship mistakes over and over, even though I know I shouldn’t. In the scheme of things, they’re fairly minor (which I’m quick to point out), but they are annoying. And in marriage, it’s good not to be annoying, whenever you can avoid it; marriage is a long, long road.

7 Mistakes That I Keep Making in Romance

  1. Even though I know it’s rude, I will often read my emails while I talk to my husband on the phone.
  2. I leave my clothes in a heap in a corner of our bedroom, even though I know it gets on his nerves.
  3. I give him a smart-alecky answer when he absent-mindedly asks me the same question more than once, even when it’s just some little thing I could easily answer.
  4. I leave empty diet soda cans scattered around the apartment.
  5. Months ago, for his birthday, he asked if we could get the carpets cleaned as his present, and I told him I’d organize that as my gift, and I haven’t done it.
  6. I haven’t made a doctor’s appointment for myself, even though he really wants me to get a check-up.
  7. I “snap” at him and speak sharply when I get anxious about something — when I fear that we’re running late, when I’m worried about whether we’re following the right parenting strategy, when I’m concerned about some work issue.

But it’s true that with time and effort, I’ve learned to do a better job in some ways.

As I write about in Better Than Before, my book about habit change, what we do most days matters more than what we do once in a while. I’ve managed to cultivate these good habits:

5 Things I Do Right

  1. I give him a warm, attentive “hello” and “good-bye” every time he comes home or leaves the apartment.
  2. I spend a few minutes clearing clutter in the early morning, right before I walk our dog Barnaby, so the apartment looks at least superficially tidy when he emerges in the morning.
  3. I text him funny or interesting updates during the day — pictures of something I see on the street, or Barnaby asleep in my office, or “Five years ago today” “One year ago” photos of our family (I do this so he doesn’t assume that every text or call from me involves an annoying logistical question).
  4. I’ve learned that as a Questioner (as opposed to an Upholder, Obliger, or Rebel), he doesn’t like being questioned, so I refrain from asking many questions that I’d like to have answered: “Where are we going for dinner?” “What time do we need to leave?”
  5. I make the bed on the days when he doesn’t make the bed. I love having the bed made, and so does he.

Ancient philosophers and contemporary scientists agree:

A key to happiness is strong relationships. @gretchenrubin (Click to Tweet!)

And if we’re in a romantic relationship, it has a big influence on our happiness.

How about you — what romance mistakes do you repeat, and what good habits have you cultivated?


Gretchen Rubin is the author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller The Happiness Project—an account of the year she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific studies, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier—and the recently released Happier at Home and Better Than Before. On her popular blog, The Happiness Project, she reports on her daily adventures in the pursuit of happiness. For more doses of happiness and other happenings, follow Gretchen on Facebook and Twitter.

Image courtesy of Glenn Carstens-Peters.