If you want to be happy in your relationship, what are the most important ingredients? Everybody has a theory about what it takes to live happily ever after, and no two people seem to agree. So let’s look instead at what science tells us will lead to relationship bliss, and how best to tackle three of the major challenges we face when trying to find, and keep, that Special Someone.
#1. What to Look For In a Mate: Someone Agreeable, Conscientious, and Emotionally Stable
According to the researchers, people with spouses who are agreeable, conscientious, and emotionally stable report being significantly happier in their marriages. So if your romantic partner is a sourpuss, selfish and irresponsible, and has a tendency to fly off the handle, your chances of finding marital bliss together are not good.
Look for someone generally pleasant, responsible, and even-tempered, and in fairness to them, be willing to return the favor.
#2. How to Know If He (or She) Loves You Back: It’s The Little Things
“If you really loved me, you would….”
Everyone who’s ever been in a relationship has had thoughts like this one. If he loved me he would bring me flowers, or compliment me more often, or remember my birthday, or remember to take out the damn garbage. When it comes to love, actions speak louder than words, right?
Well, not necessarily. According to new research, romantic feelings like love, intimacy, and commitment reliably lead to some loving behaviors – the smaller, spontaneous acts of kindness that occur without much forethought, like offering a backrub, making a nice dinner, or letting you have the last brownie in the pan. These “little things” are a much better indicator of the depth of his love than whether or not he remembers your birthday or to take out the trash.
#3 How to Fight Well: Treat Little Problems and Big Problems Differently
The best way to deal with conflict in a relationship depends on how serious or severe the problem is. Did your boyfriend drink too much at the party last night, or is he drinking too much every night? Did your wife splurge a little too much on clothes last month, or are her spending habits edging you closer and closer to bankruptcy? Did he invite his mother to dinner without discussing it with you first, or did he invite his mother to live with you without discussing it first? Little problems and big problems require very different approaches if you want to have a lasting, happy relationship.
When it comes to relatively minor problems, direct fighting strategies – like placing blame on your partner for their actions or expressing your anger – predict a loss of relationship satisfaction over time. Flying off the handle when he forgets to take out the garbage yet again, or when she spends a little too much money on a pricey pair of shoes, is going to take its toll on your happiness in the long run. You really are better off letting the small stuff go.
On the other hand, in response to major problems, couples who battle it out do a better job of tackling, and eventually resolving those issues, than those who sweep big problems under the carpet.
So when you are deciding whether or not something is worth fighting over with your partner, ask yourself if, in the scheme of things, the problem is a 10 or a 2. If it’s a 2, try letting it go. But if it’s a 10, let the battle begin. You’ll both be happier that way.
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