You have to like someone before you can love them.
And happy couples love each other.
They share a good laugh frequently and often.
They pay attention to one another.
It doesn't always have to be verbal.
Last week I mentioned a couple who, while mingling separately at a party, checked in with one another periodically.
Just with eye contact.
Maybe a barely perceptible nod.
Nobody else at the party would notice, but my friends have a way of communicating with each other that makes them feel like co-conspirators.
It's them, together, against the rest of the world.
Or at least the rest of the partygoers.
And when, at the end of the evening, one gives the other a certain wide-eyed look, it's code for "Time to go home.
" No conversation necessary.
Of course there are times when there's no substitute for a good face-to-face talk.
When it's important to hash things out to avoid problems that could occur in the future.
These are the times when you need to get some genuine understanding of your partner's point of view.
And vice versa.
Look at each other.
Cell phones, iPads, TV-all electronics, off.
Focus your full attention on what your partner is saying because understanding your partner will go a long way toward preventing harmful blow-ups.
If you're a young couple, you have probably learned to communicate from your families of origin.
Older couples have too, but hopefully they've learned from their past.
If you come from a conflict avoidance background, chances are you navigate the same way.
Or if you come from a "let-it-all-out" family that says whatever comes to mind without a care of the consequences, you might have the same habit.
Either extreme hampers loving, thoughtful communication.
Counseling can help.
A real red flag is communicating outside the relationship when it's more appropriate to communicate with your partner.
For example, your partner annoys you by leaving her dirty clothes lying around.
You are constantly picking up after her, and it's beginning to irritate you.
If you call your mom to complain instead of talking about this problem with your partner, you might be in trouble.
You're avoiding communication that you could have with your partner that may ultimately bring you closer together.
She might not realize the extent to which her behavior bugs you.
You might put the hamper in a more convenient place for her.
There are possibilities of solutions if you just talk it through.
That doesn't mean be brutally honest or deliberately hurtful.
It means you must count on each for the truth.
In a way, not telling the truth shows contempt for your partner.
If you respect him, you will trust him enough to give him a reasonable idea of how you feel, what you think.
And you will expect the same from him.
You will trust each other, and that is a cornerstone of a lasting, loving, happy relationship.
It all starts with open communication.
I'll talk more about behavior patterns happy couples share next week.