When your partner is content, you can be sure of pleasant company. But not only that — a study suggests when your partner's happy, you live longer too. So what's to do if you live with a sourpuss?
Imagine these two types: One happy, one not.
First: The archetypal couch potato. He only ever gets up to smoke a cigarette, because he has to go outside. And when he eats, it's a pre-packed TV dinner. Why? He's unhappy. Everything annoys him: His job, his friends, life in general.
Second: Mr. Positive. He loves the outdoors, likes to meet up with friends, and he's always enthusiastic about new things. He loves his life. He says life is beautiful.
You can be one or the other, or somewhere in-between. Either way, in a relationship, the happiness or unhappiness of one person will sooner or later rub off on the other — potentially with far-reaching consequences.
His advice sounds simple, but it's not that easy, especially in romantic relationships where we want to share our feelings and be one, together.
To understand where one's own sphere begins and that of another person ends is a very conscious process, says Lauer. And a very important one.
People who realize that their partner's dissatisfaction is not automatically their own can protect themselves from emotional roller coasters. It's easier then to acknowledge or accept the unhappiness of the other person, says Lauer.
And who doesn't want to be acknowledged and accepted — even when they are in a state of misery?
"It's important to show a certain amount of mindfulness," says Lauer, "to understand exactly what's going on and, if possible, to talk about it."
But it can be tricky.
When Lauer says "talk about it" he doesn't mean trying to talk the other person back into a more cheerful mood by offering trivial advice or fortune-cookie wisdom.
"It's about listening to each other's concerns without prejudice or passing judgement," the psychologist says.
If your partner talks, complains, or scolds you, just leave it at that.
Such an approach can also help you protect yourself.
Every argument or discussion about the validity or nonsense of the other person's bad thoughts can lead to your becoming more involved, Lauer warns. And the boundaries between "I" and "you" quickly become blurred again.
Silence is golden
But what if I am convinced I know exactly what my partner should do to free himself of his miserable mood?
"Tips and advice can intensify a person's unhappiness," says Lauer.
Lauer says that's because your advice will be based on your own interpretation of your partner's mood, and that can be miles away from his or her perceived reality.
As a result, your partner may feel neither accepted nor understood, and their mood will continue. And that may ultimately bring you down, too.