Happy yes: Part 1

In Love, Sex, and Relationships by Dr. Keith Witt

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One great principle of happy relationships is to say “Yes” as much as possible. Couples who do this are happier, healthier, and have better sex. “Yes, I’ll remember to wipe the sink.” “Yes, I won’t grab your behind while you’re cooking dinner.” “Yes, when I’m mad at our son I’ll do my best to use a kind and patient tone.” “Yes, I’ll help you move the couch.” You get the idea.

But there is a big caveat on “Yes.” If you’re going to say, “Yes,” make it a happy yes!

Why? Because an unhappy or resentful “Yes” is as bad as “No!” A request is an opportunity for intimacy.

A glad “Yes” with mutual love and gratitude generates satisfying love. That’s why it’s so good to say “Yes” as much as possible to your partner’s explicit and implicit requests. Do you and your partner frequently express gratitude for all your daily contributions to your shared lives? If you don’t, imagine what it would be like live in recognition and gratitude most of the time, and talk about it with your partner. We can always get better at listening, validating, and acting from love.

On the other hand, sometimes we have to say “No.” If something feels wrong or will leave you resentful, it’s probably not going to help your relationship to ignore your intuition and begrudgingly comply. Not trusting inner wisdom and going along with what feels wrong in your heart leads to neglect, codependence, and disconnection.

If it feels wrong to say “Yes” say “No” as kindly and respectfully as possible. This keeps you emotionally engaged and opens you to potentially productive dialogue (which enhances intimacy) if your partner is distressed.

Everyone has heard and said a begrudging “Yes.” Your wife asks you to do the dishes right after the football game ends, and you roll your eyes and say with no humor, “All right! I’ll do them!” Now she’s irritated with you and you’re down on her for asking.  As your husband is leaving for work, he asks you to call the insurance company because they double billed your account. You feel a flash of anger at him (and the insurance company who are a nightmare to deal with) and snap back, “Of course I’ll call them. I do all the dirty work around here!” Now, all day, when one of you thinks of the other, a negative story of him or her being a pain is likely to show up. This moment of begrudging “Yes” has created a whole day of hostility.

It is so better to feel that flash of irritation, take a deep silent breath, and tell yourself, “If I say yes, it needs to be a glad yes. I love this person and want him/her to feel loved by me.” Then you might:

  • Smile and tell your wife, “Sure I’ll do the dishes. Why don’t you have a glass of wine and talk with me while I work.”
  • Smile and tell your husband, “Yes, I’ll call them, but I’ll only wait one hour on hold.” He laughs and sympathizes and thanks you profusely for taking the trouble.

Because we’re almost all of us good people and like to say yes to people we love, we usually say “Yes,” but often with a little attitude—a critical dig, or a mild complaint. These passive aggressive responses completely wreck your “Yes.”

If you’re going say “Yes,” say it gladly and generously, creating a shared moment of loving connection. The more such moments you and your partner create, the happier and healthier you both will be.

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