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Choose To Be Happy In Relationships

List of Tips and Links

Tom G. Stevens PhD
Psychologist/Professor Emeritus, California State University, Long Beach
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Choose To Be Happy In Relationships

Tom G. Stevens PhD and Sherry Bene' Stevens MFT 
We hope that you can be as happy together as we are!




 Go to Assertion Training Program (at

  Go to Developing Intimacy and Conversational Skills:

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Gratitude and abundance thinking. I have already received more than I can ever give. The creative forces gave me life, persons who took care of me, and a world full of opportunities for me to meet my own needs and find happiness.

Love or friendship is a gift--for which I am grateful. No one owes me their love or liking--not even my parents or partner. Love cannot be given from obligation.

Make yourself happy--before and during relationships. Depend on yourself to make you happy--not your partner. Don't blame partner for unhappiness. Don't expect partner to change to make you happy. To be happy you must accept them as they are--or leave.

Give (act) out of empathy and caring for partner--not out of obligation and rules. Giving out of obligation causes resentment each time we do it.

Give to make your partner happy. Give what THEY want (not what you THINK they SHOULD want). If in doubt, ASK.

Give what you can afford to give, otherwise you will probably resent giving.

Balance giving. Make partner responsible for own happiness, but be as giving as feel is healthy to keep both happy. Keep an overall balance in responsibilities.

Equality of control in decisions--overall near 50-50. Seek "win-win" solutions.

Learn to accept and enjoy your partner's differences and "oddities." Often they are the other side of the coin of some quality you love about them. If not, is being with them worth putting up with this aspect? If not, consider leaving.

Good communication. Empathy, honesty, openness. Give the WHOLE truth--tell both negative and positive feelings (kindly). No game playing. When you have communication problems, ASK your partner how they want you to communicate. Ask for examples.

Give lots of LOVE MESSAGES--compliments, "I love yous, " etc.

If you are UPSET about something your partner is doing first:

  • *Examine your underlying expectations. Are they unrealistic from THIS person?

  • *Am I expecting my partner to make me happy instead of making myself happy?

  • *Assume the best intentions of partner. (Assuming the worst intentions is a major cause of feeling hurt and angry. Assume that your love partner loves and respects you. If you can't assume it, then discuss that issue openly first. MYTH: People say how they really feel when angry--NOT TRUE. (Instead, they aim to hurt in order to defend themselves or "get even"). *No zingers or attacking partners--causes conflict escalation and reduces partners' love.

  • *First ask yourself what YOU can think or do to improve the situation.

  • *THEN discuss it with your partner--and ask what partner wants from you.

When either partner is upset, still tell other YOU CARE, and switch into EMPATHY MODE. Then offer suggestions about what YOU can do to make things better not what your partner can do (unless partner asks). If you are the less upset partner, be as understanding, caring , and helpful as possible (without taking too much control).

Have fun (and some life) apart--especially for areas do not share common interests. Talk about and support each other's unique interests and activities (unless they are destructive).

Have fun and romance together. Plan interesting and fun activities together. Learn how to play and let your little boy and little girl play. Make time, energy, and money for fun and romance a high priority. Have a multidimensional relationship.

==>These ideas from Tom's book (free on this website),
You Can Choose To Be Happy: "Rise Above" Anxiety, Anger, and Depression

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Tom G. Stevens PhD and Sherry Bene' Stevens MFT

(from Chapter 6 in You Can Choose To Be Happy, at

Most people do not have good assertive communication skills. Assertive skills take time, study, and practice to learn. Following are a few characteristics of assertive (non-aggressive, non-passive) interpersonal communications. Try these tips to become more assertive and to resolve disagreements more constructively. (From chapter 6)

 Empathy. Attempt to UNDERSTAND other person's point of view thoroughly.

 Care for other. Express RESPECT and CONCERN for others and their feelings. Tell them and show them you care--even if you are angry at them.

 Care for self. Focus on OWN VALUES, GOALS, FEELINGS--clarify them to yourself and to others.

 Win--Win Solutions. Seek "WIN--WIN" solutions. Avoid"WIN--LOSE" solutions (even if you will be the winner). What do you win in the long run when you hurt someone you care for or do business with?

 No name-calling, attacking, or blaming. Use NEUTRAL, DESCRIPTIVE LANGUAGE-- avoid "NAME CALLING," NEGATIVE LABELS, OR PERSONAL ATTACKS OF ANY TYPE. Don't blame other or self. Focus on causes and solutions--not on assessing blame and problems.

 Issue-oriented.  Keep focus on one important issue at a time and be willing to take whatever time is necessary to reach an eventual solution for important problems. Be flexible about when to talk. Make sure there is a fair turn-taking of whose main issue is being addressed.

 Calm. Attempt to keep an atmosphere of CALM CONCERN and UNDERSTANDING by both parties. If emotions get too intense, take a "time-out" (time and space necessary to regain calmness by either party).

 Listen empathetically. Listen to others first. Let the other thoroughly explore his or her point-of-view. Frequently summarize the essence of the other's emotions and content.

 Ask the other to elaborate his or her point of view, so you can understand it in more detail--even if it is critical of you. Ask them questions like, Can you give me examples?, Can you tell me more?, or What else bothers you?

 Get to heart of problem. Encourage CLARIFICATION and EXPLORATION of underlying issues. (See Self-exploration chapter and apply method to both parties. Help both parties discover the underlying, bigger themes behind the feelings.)

After exploration of problem, focus on SOLUTIONS not causes (Never on BLAME).

 Be caring, but firmly respond to manipulation. Respond to emotional outbursts with empathy, but do not be manipulated by them. (Example, "I can see you are very angry about XX. I care about your feelings and want to understand why you are so upset.") Often, the best alternative is to take a "TIME-OUT" if either party gets too "out of control."

 Bargain if needed. Be willing (and learn how) to "escalate" and bargain with rewards and punishments if simple agreements do not work or if the other person becomes too manipulative. Try to avoid escalation if either gets upset. Use calming, but firm approach to de-escalate anger or attacks. If you believe that you are being treated badly by the other person and they refuse to bargain, then consider taking action yourself to better take care of your own needs--even if it upsets them. It might bring them back to the bargaining table!

 Focus on changing self--not other. You can only control your own thoughts, feelings, and behavior--not the other person's. Offer suggestions of actions you can take to improve matters--especially those that also take better care of your needs.

 Actions consistent with words. Follow up with actions matching words--persistently. No deceit. If the other does not keep an agreement, quickly examine the problem alone. Then discuss their failure to keep the agreement with them.


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The BOOK (free download): Go to Contents of Dr. Stevens'  book,  You Can Choose To Be Happy: "Rise Above" Anxiety, Anger, and Depression.

FREE SELF-HELP materials available on this web site (click here to see list)  

  How to ORDER You Can Choose To Be Happy  

Success and Happiness Attributes Questionnaire (SHAQ)  to assess self on many factors  including HQ-Happiness Quotient 

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