Happy, healthy, thriving relationships don’t happen by chance. They take effort and intention, they’re well worth that effort, and my guest today is literally an expert in how to create this kind of relationship in your own life. I am thrilled to welcome Suzie Pileggi Pawelski, MAPP, an author, speaker, and well-being consultant specializing in the science of happiness and its effects on relationships and health. Her 2010 Scientific American Mind cover story, “The Happy Couple,” was the catalyst for the book, Happy Together: Using the Science of Positive Psychology to Build Love that Lasts (Penguin Random House, 2018) that she co-wrote with her husband, James. Together, they give Romance and Research workshops around the world. She has a Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) degree from the University of Pennsylvania and is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She is passionate about helping individuals and couples make better food and lifestyle choices.
We exist in relationship with others, and having happy, healthy relationships is one of the most important things when it comes to wellbeing. There are plenty of books that focus on what’s wrong in relationships, books that focus on the problems, but through the lens of positive psychology, Suzie felt called to put out a book that focuses on what’s right about healthy, thriving relationships, and how we can incorporate this into our own lives. “Happily-ever-after” relationships don’t just happen. We need to work on developing healthy habits and the skills that can make us happy together. Just like working out our bodies is an ongoing process, we need to build muscle and flexibility in our relationships. And just like you wouldn’t do the same exercises in the gym every day, every week, every month, you need to vary the ways in which you work on your relationship, because what works now might not be the most effective practice in the future. Suzie looked at the research to determine how this can be applied to our romantic lives.
Continuing with the metaphor of physical exercise, it’s important to understand that working on a healthy relationship is like working out at the gym. It might be tough at first, but once you build the habit it becomes something you’ll want to do, because you know how good it is for you, and you’ll soon see the rewards of practicing healthy habits with your partner. She also prefers to think of it as practice, and not work, and the focus should be on what you want in your relationship, as opposed to what you don’t want.
Suzie discusses some of the things that you can do to build a healthy relationship, including going on “strengths dates,” (To learn about your own strengths, you can take a free assessment called the VIA, which you can find at https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu) and she emphasizes the importance of nurturing curiosity about ourselves and about our partners.
Suzie also addresses the change in passion that we might feel for our partner over time and a healthy way to think about this, as well as the importance of savoring (and the different types of savoring) and of acknowledging and appreciating our partners.
To learn more about Suzie Pileggi Pawelski and her work, go to https://www.buildhappytogether.com, her Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/buildhappytogether/), and check out her article in Psychology Today (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/happy-together).
Also, Suzie recommended the book, The Nichomachean Ethics, by Aristotle, which you can find at Amazon (https://amzn.to/2QfBQjz).
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