Five habits of happiest couples
First and foremost is that they never let the third date end.
Keeping up those revealing conversations is key to staying out of the unhappiness gulch, said Terri Orbuch, psychologist and author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great.
Orbuch has followed 373 Midwestern couples since 1986 in a large research study. Of those people who are very happy in their marriages, 98 percent say they intimately know and understand their partner. Half say they often share intimate details of their lives — their dreams, stresses, values and goals — with their partners.
So, Orbuch recommends couples to talk to each other for at least 10 minutes a day, but not about work, family or the relationship.
“Our partners change over time, and there are new things going on with them. That third date was novel and interesting and surprising, and it was wonderful. Have that third date again,” she said.
Second, they spend some mental time in the nosebleed seats.
Most couples try to see their partner’s point of view when they disagree. But the trick to marital bliss might not be looking at an argument from the other side, but from outside it altogether, a forthcoming study has suggested.
Northwestern University social psychologist Eli Finkel and his colleagues asked married couples to spend just seven minutes writing about a recent fight with their spouse from the point of view of a neutral observer, three times over the course of a year.
When the year was up, those couples had more satisfying, trusting and passionate relationships than couples who didn’t do the writing exercise.
Next is that they think small.
The most blissful couples tend to be the most generous with one another in tiny ways, a 2011 study by the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project found.
Of more than 1,400 pairs, those who freely did unasked tasks and showed unprompted affection were nearly three times as likely to be very happy as those who didn’t.
“These are acts that are above and beyond what’s normally expected…. The husband or wife notices there’s a need and jumps in to fill it, or is trying to signal to their spouse that they love them by doing something that their spouse will enjoy,” said W. Bradford Wilcox, the project’s director.
It is said that it takes a village to raise a child, Wilcox said. It also takes a village to foster a good marriage, he added.
Wilcox and his colleagues have found that couples who enmesh themselves in communities that bolster their relationship, whether by having a network of supportive family and friends or being part of a religious community, are more satisfied even than loving couples who go it alone.
But couples should be wary of friends or family members who, as great as they may be in other ways, don’t support their marriage, Wilcox warned.
He also warned against friends who tend to tear down their own partners.
Finally the happiest couples recycle laughter.
Couples who reminisced about a time they laughed together showed an increase in relationship satisfaction compared to couples who thought back to another good time in their relationship (or to a time they laughed apart), a 2007 study showed.