Focus on the Positive: 10 DO’s for a Successful Relationship


I recently came across an article in Psychology Today that made one very interesting point about relationships: people need to stop listening to the dont’s and start focusing more on the do’s. It’s not exactly a novel idea, but it’s a pretty good one and one that most jaded people in relationships tend to ignore.

The author goes on to talk about something called, “approach orientation, moving toward what’s good, rather than moving away from what’s bad.” How many times do you find yourself focusing on all the things that are wrong with your relationship, usually ready to hightail it out of there at the first sign of trouble. Instead, it wouldn’t kill us to focus on the good, strengthening the parts that are actually working It’s all about “maximizing positives.” Here are 10 expert DO’s from some leading positivity-oriented psychologists.

DO be greatful
“Gratitude helps remind us of the good qualities in our partners. We get into these routines and start taking our partners for granted… But gratitude can work as a booster shot, injecting positive emotion into the relationship.” Sara Algoe, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

DO poke fun at each other
“Playfulness is one of the first casualties of a busy life. You have to keep it alive by having fun, joking around, using silly nicknames… Couples who teased each other in the heat of a conflict felt more connected after the fact.” Dacher Keltner, professor of psychology at University of California, Berkeley

DO capitalize on good news
“We expect our partners to provide us with a shoulder to cry on when times are toughbut how couples behave during good times might be even more important. Partners who respond enthusiastically to each other’s successes, report greater relationship satisfaction over time.” Shelly Gable, researcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara

DO idealize each other
“We may think putting our mates on a pedestal is unrealisticbut in fact, partners who idealize each other wind up happier. Partners in the most satisfied couples rate their mates more positively than the mates rate themselves.” Sandra Murray, a psychologist at the University at Buffalo (SUNY)

DO find your ideal self in your partner
“Called the Michelangelo effect, since partners can help sculpt each other’s best selves by affirming each other’s efforts at self-improvement. The aspiring fitness buff, for example, appreciates her athletic partner’s reminders to work out.” Caryl Rusbult, psychologist at the Free University of Amsterdam

DO notice what’s new about your partner
“You feel like you’ve captured who this is in your mind, so you hold them still, but they’re actually growing and changing all the time. Once we think we know another person so well that we don’t pay attention to them anymore, the person stops being seen.” Ellen Langer, psychologist at Harvard University

DO put it in writing
“When participants wrote about their relationships for 20 minutes at a time for 3 days, they were more likely to be together 3 months later. They also expressed more positive emotions in instant message conversations with each other.” A University of Texas study

DO provide support in secret
“Overt social support carries a cost: Partners feel obligated, which leads to more stress… The most effective support was actually ‘invisible.'” Niall Bolger, a psychologist at Columbia University

DO get back in touch
“Cultivating ‘body sense’ awareness on one’s own and with one’s partner is essential, not only for a good sexual relationship but during any close encounter,” Alan Fogel, a psychologist at University of Utah

DO look after yourself
“If you’re going through a rough patch, often the most effective thing that you can do is to lovingly remove your attention from the relationshipperiod…Forget about what the other person is doing badly, or isn’t doing, and focus on taking positive action in your own life instead.” Susan Biali, wellness coach and author of Your Prescription for Life

Agyness Deyn and Orlando Bloom Photo: Terry Richardson, Me & City