Howdy folks! It’s time to reveal The Happiness Project goals of February, the month of looooovvveeeee!
February’s focus: Remember Love
The author, Gretchen Rubin, is happily married to Jamie with two children, so naturally she made February about boosting her marriage’s happiness. That said, you don’t have to be married (or even have a partner) to partake in these goals. Some of these could even be applied to relationships with loving parents or siblings.
For Gretchen, marriage is the foundation for all her important decisions in life. We all know the saying, “Happy wife, happy life.” But really, all joking aside, I don’t make important decisions anymore without consulting my partner, Teddy. What happens in my life affects his, and vice versa. Teddy is a big part of life, and I want to make sure he and I have a healthy, loving relationship.
Now, this doesn’t mean I’m going to try changing him or try to fix any of his faults – the opposite! No one can change another person, you can only change yourself. So that’s what I’ll do, focus on my own shortcomings and alter the way I react to things.
“Quit Nagging” – Teddy is gonna love this one. I apparently bug him a lot about his messy room, lack of organization, and such things.
Nagging is a constant reminder of something the other person is already aware of, often laced with negativity, as well as a persistent finding of fault. Because of this continuous irritation, nagging can easily trigger a bout of bickering and even resentment. So why do I do it? Maybe it was how I was raised? Maybe I’m just a meanie? Well, whatever it is, Gretchen has tried offering some anti-nagging techniques.
Try to suggest tasks without talking, for example, putting the DVD rental by his shoes to remind him to bring it back. Or you can try one word reminders, but I find that could become just as much as a guessing game. For example, if I say, “Laundry,” what would Teddy think I mean? Fold the laundry? Wash the laundry? Dry the laundry? Hide the laundry? Burn the laundry?
Another tip is to realize that tasks don’t need to be done according to my schedule. Just because I want something done right away, doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to be done at that moment. Unless of course it’s time sensitive to a particular event or deadline.
I also need to be more observant and notice all the errands Teddy does accomplish. Instead of bugging him about what he needs to do, maybe I should reflect on what he has done. And lastly, the good ole do it yourself trick. If a task needs to be done and I find it doesn’t get addressed, then I should just do myself, right?
Excerpt from Gretchen: “And when Jamie did a task, I didn’t allow myself to carp from the sidelines.”
I’m going to cut back on the nagging – it’s not productive anyway – and allow Teddy to do what needs to be done, without carping from the sidelines.
“Don’t Expect Praise or Appreciation” – For Gretchen, this stems from the nagging family, as she found that she nagged for more praise.
For me, and anyone really, this seems like a viable practice in general. When you accomplish something in search of praise or recognition, and that appreciation doesn’t come to fruition, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Disappointment can lead to sulking. However, if you accomplish something without the expectation of praise, and you are acknowledged for your efforts, it comes as a pleasant surprise.
Not everything I do will be praised by Teddy, and I know that. This particular goal can be hard for some, but for myself, I don’t think it will be that difficult. I often approach things with low expectations in the first place, which lets me appreciate and get more out of it. Going into something with high standards and not having them met simply leaves you discontented.
Excerpt from Gretchen: “I wanted that gold star stuck onto my homework.”
I used to be like that, wanting gold stickers for everything, but I’ve changed, for the better of course! 😛
“Fight Right” – As Gretchen says, there will always be disagreements, but it’s how you approach them that counts. One of her vices, as well as mine, is “snapping.” It’s when you lose control and retaliate with a snarky or irritable remark. It’s mean, it’s unexpected, it leaves you guilty and your recipient regretting they ever looked at you. Snapping gets you a reputation as a ticking time bomb. There are ways to simply breathe, choose better wording, and talk out what is bothering you without verbally attacking. Or better yet, bite your tongue until the anger passes. This is what I need to practice.
There are lots of other methods to fight right in addition to no snapping. During an argument, it could be constructive to acknowledge that outside pressures, like work stress or demands from family members, could be contributing to the strain of the situation on your partner. In other words, understand their perspective. Avoid using phrases like, “You never…” or, “You always…” because that insinuates habitual offenses. Refrain from name calling; there’s no need for it at all. Be aware that your remarks can leave a sour note, so choose better wording. And most importantly, don’t rehash old arguments while trying to tackle a separate new problem.
Why should I practice fighting right? Well, after snapping or being rude amongst a disagreement, I would feel guilty about what I had said, and I don’t like knowing that I’ve hurt someone I love. Fighting right is a step toward preventing the guilt, which in turn boosts happiness. If Teddy and I can disagree cordially, then we’ll both be happier in the long run.
Excerpt from Gretchen: “Couples who fight right tackle only one difficult topic at a time, instead of indulging in arguments that cover every grievance since the first date.”
I’ve seen many couples do the opposite of this and repeatedly open old wounds, like as if they are keeping a scoreboard. Don’t keep score, let things go.
“No Dumping” – This does not mean, “Do not dump your partner,” as Teddy thought it meant!
Instead, Gretchen means do not dump a bunch of negative complaints all the time. Constant whining or complaining about things drags down both you and your partner’s moods. However, this also doesn’t mean bottle everything up inside, because sometimes you just need to vent. But it shouldn’t become a habitual negative drain. It’s all about balance!
This goal won’t be much of a struggle for myself. Teddy and I discuss important things when they need to be addressed, but never in a negative fashion. And I don’t think I’m much of a complainer… Am I? Am I? The glares from Teddy suggests otherwise… Alas, I will try not to dump. 😛
Excerpt from Gretchen: “A 30 percent increase in one spouse’s happiness boosts the other spouse’s happiness, while a drop in one spouse’s happiness drags the other down.”
“Give Proofs of Love” – A lot of the other goals this month are restraints, where as this one is a positive action. Well, many positive actions! Simply say, “I love you,” more often. Hug more – do it for at least six seconds, it will release oxytocin and serotonin to promote feelings of bonding. Hugging also relieves stress and oppresses pain. Rather than sending messages to your partner that always pertain to questions or reminders, send interesting news or funny stories. You could also arrange a “date night” that’s child-free, assuming that’s something you want to do. Gretchen and her husband liked the idea but decided their life was already hectic as is, so adding a “date night” would be more stressful than necessary. A calm, relaxing night in was much more appealing to them. I agree!
Over time, you grow accustomed to having your partner beside you, so you start to take the things they do for granted. Don’t. Make note of the things you love about them, not the aggravations or things you think are faulty. Keep in mind even the small things matter, like when hosting a party and you take everyone’s drink order – don’t forget your partner’s just because they live there too!
Excerpt from Gretchen: “One of the great joys of falling in love is the feeling that the most extraordinary person in the entire world has chosen you.”
So treat them like the extraordinary person they are! 🙂
A lot of these goals aren’t as physically involved as January’s were, however, they require more mental effort of changing negative views into positive and loving approaches. As I mentioned before, if you don’t have a significant other, you can take these and mold them to shape almost any loving relationship you want to improve, like with your mother or brother or child.
I wish you all the best! xoxo