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The Best Way in the World to Keep Your Partner Happy

You don't need gifts or fancy vacations to make your partner happy—it's a whole lot simpler than that. Here's the trick.

By
Stephen Snyder, MD,
Episode #13
keep your partner happy

Today, I'm going to show you the best, sure-fire, works-every-time, easiest way in the world to make any partner happy, and make yourself happier by extension.

That's a big promise, I know. We therapists don't usually make promises. But this one can really change your life. And I’m going to tell it to you absolutely free ... in a minute.

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But first, I want to tell you a story.

My most unhappy patient

A long time ago, before I became a sex and relationship therapist, I was a regular therapist. I had just a few patients, and I’d meet with them every week, for months and years, listening to their problems and trying to figure out how to help them.

I had one patient who absolutely drove me crazy. She’d come into my office, sit down, and immediately start ranting.

She ranted about everything—her work, her life, her parents. I could never manage to get in more than a few words before she’d start ranting again. It wasn’t long before she started ranting about me, too. It was useless talking to me, she said. No one understood her—least of all, me.

Some serious advice about being happier

Not sure what to do, I called an older colleague and described the situation. He listened carefully and made a few suggestions. Then, almost as an afterthought, he said something I've remembered ever since:

"Don't forget to enjoy her."

For a moment, I wondered if he'd gone soft in the head. But as I continued to sit with my patient, day after day, week after week, I realized my colleague was on to something.

No one, as far as she or I could tell, had ever really enjoyed this woman. Her parents, she said, were awful people—always critical. And she'd been a difficult child—irritable, quick-tempered, not an easy person to get along with.

Once I decided just to let her be, she calmed down, stopped ranting, and started to get better.

Clearly, something had gone seriously wrong very early in my patient's life. And now, ever since, she’d been playing the same drama over and over again with everyone she met.

I decided to set everything else aside momentarily and see whether I could find something about this woman to enjoy. It turned out to be unexpectedly easy. She had all sorts of interesting, quirky opinions about all sorts of things. I disagreed with most of them, but hey, who was I to judge?

Once I started to relax a bit with her, she started to relax, too. She had a goofy sense of humor that I'd never noticed before. Once I decided just to let her be, she calmed down, stopped ranting, and started to get better.

The world's best secret to making your partner happy

People need to be enjoyed. It doesn't matter whether it's a professional relationship, like the one I just described, a family relationship, or a romantic relationship. The one sure-fire, works-every-time, easiest way in the world to make your partner happy is to enjoy them.

Nature makes kids cute for a reason—so we'll enjoy them even though they can be a pain in the neck.

We're all hard-wired from infancy to want to be enjoyed. Nature makes kids cute for a reason—so we'll enjoy them even though they can be a pain in the neck.

In fact, enjoying your kids is one of a parent's most important jobs. You can be the best parent in the world in every other respect. You can cook wonderful, nutritious meals, help your kids with their homework, and show up at all their sporting events. But if you don't also enjoy them, at least some of the time, something fundamental is missing.

Happiness means letting go of judgment

Enjoying your partner doesn't mean spending lots of money on fancy vacations. I'm talking about something more intimate—lighting up when you see them. Chances are, that's why the two of you got together in the first place—because you enjoyed being together. So, what gets in the way?

Sooner or later, every relationship inevitably involves disappointments.

Lots of things. First, in any committed relationship, you have to make decisions together. And sometimes you're going to disagree. When that happens, your partner becomes your opponent. Not exactly a recipe for enjoying them.

But there's something else, too. Sooner or later, every relationship inevitably involves disappointments.

No one gets a five-star rating, every time. Pretty much every time your romantic partner disappoints you, unless you're an absolute saint, you're going to judge them for it and lament the fact that they're not what you signed up for. That's normal. Maybe they're not smart enough, practical enough, ambitious enough, or mature enough. And if you're like most of us, you're immediately going to start thinking of ways for them to improve so you'll be more satisfied. That's normal too. But it also pretty much guarantees that you won't enjoy them very much.

One big reason we judge and complain about the people we're closest to is that it's what was done to us. Most often, we're judged by our parents, who saw it as part of their job to point out where we needed to improve.

With any luck, your parents also made you feel accepted, too. But some parents are better at this than others.

Who's best at making people happy?

Sometimes a good grandparent can really make a difference. Grandparents tend to specialize in enjoying their grandkids. They're always thrilled to see them. Grandchildren know that, and they love their grandparents for it.

We could all use a bit of that wisdom when it comes to enjoying our partners—judge them less; enjoy them more.

As every grandparent knows, you don't get an infinite amount of time to enjoy the people you love. You'd better enjoy them now.

Grandparenthood is a uniquely human institution. Our closest relatives, the great apes, have nothing that even resembles it. We're the only primate that goes through menopause. Our relatives in the ape family continue to be capable of producing children until they die. They never get to step back and watch from the sidelines. They never get to see how fun it all is from a grandparent's perspective

Another trick for making your partner happy

A while back, TIME Magazine did a special issue, which I liked very much, about The Science of Marriage. In one section, they asked Samantha Bee and Jason Jones, two comedians who are married to each other, for their best relationship advice.

One of their suggestions read:

If you’re irritated by your partner, imagine him as a small child. We know! You totally don’t want to try this! It sounds awful! (And maybe even not that much of a stretch.) But trust us—this is an amazing way to see him from a fresh angle. Here’s what to do: While your partner is puttering around and looking idle, imagine him at age five. Awww. Isn’t he adorable? And so smart! It’s easy to forget how appealing your spouse is when you are looking at him through a prism of all the chores that he has yet to accomplish.

Samantha Bee and Jason Jones

To me, it sounded like the couple were willing to look at each other from the grandparent's perspective.

How to find perfect happiness with someone you love

Being a parent, for better or worse, is mostly about preparing your kids for the future. Grandparenthood, if you're lucky enough to do it right, is all about now. It's about the present moment. And by the time you're a grandparent, you realize you don't have an infinite number of such moments left.

We could all use a bit of that wisdom when it comes to enjoying our partners—judge them less; enjoy them more.

As every grandparent knows, you don’t get an infinite amount of time to enjoy the people you love, so you’d better enjoy them now.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Stephen Snyder is a sex and relationship therapist in New York City and Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine. He's also the author of Love Worth Making: How to Have Ridiculously Great Sex in a Long-Lasting Relationship. Stay in the loop! Listen and subscribe to the Relationship Doctor show on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Disclaimer: All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider.

About the Author

Stephen Snyder, MD

Dr. Stephen Snyder is a sex and relationship therapist in New York City and Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine. He's also the author of Love Worth Making: How to Have Ridiculously Great Sex in a Long-Lasting Relationship

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