3 Habits of Emotionally Strong Couples

#2: Firm boundaries

Nick Wignall
8 min readSep 21


Photo by Lauren Rader

In my work as a psychologist, I’ve observed that unhappy couples tend to have a lot of shared bad habits…

For example:

  • When one partner gets anxious, the other gets overly-critical or condescending.
  • Maybe each party tends to get avoidant and guarded when they’re stressed, triggering the other to worry and feel insecure.

Of course there are dozens of patterns like this, but the core problem is the same…

Unhappy couples are not good at managing difficult emotions — either their own or their partner’s.

On the other hand, relatively happy couples tend to be emotionally strong and manage difficult emotions well, together.

In the rest of this article, we’ll look at three habits that happy, emotionally strong couples share plus some suggestions for how to cultivate them in your own relationship.

1. Assertive Requests

Without knowing it, many couples start off their lives together establishing a dangerous precedent in the relationship…

They don’t ask each other for what they really want.

Here’s a quick example from a former client of mine:

  • She’s a little uncomfortable about money because she grew up poor. So she never asks about her husband’s spending and saving habits despite knowing it’s an important topic to talk about.
  • Years go by, he silently accumulates huge amounts of debt and feels too ashamed to talk about it.
  • Eventually, the bubble bursts because his debt goes into collections and she finds out.
  • Their joint finances are a wreck, her trust in him is severely damaged, his self-esteem hits rock bottom, and they fight constantly now.

How did this happen?

Of course, the main problem was his excessive spending. But early on, it probably could have been addressed much less painfully if my client followed through on her instinct and been willing to ask for more information about his financial picture despite feeling anxious…



Nick Wignall

Psychologist and writer sharing practical advice for emotional health and well-being: https://thefriendlymind.com