People who are in happy relationships know how much of a positive effect they can have on life, and people who aren’t want to get a piece of that. While it’s easy to assume that it’s all down to having good luck in love, there are scientific reasons why some relationships thrive and some fail. Here’s what the data says about what brings couples together in a harmonious way.
- Emotional connection is key. If it wasn’t for an emotional connection, the relationship would have lasted a few weeks, maybe a few months, but it definitely wouldn’t have made it to serious-status without it. A psychologist based out of Ottawa, Canada found that the couples who were the happiest in their relationship found ways to keep their emotional connection as strong as it was in the beginning. It’s all about being aware of your partner’s emotional needs and acting on them yourself.
- The little things really do count the most. It might sound cliche, but there is scientific evidence to back up the claim that doing little things more often makes for a far happier relationship than putting on grand gestures of love that are few and far between. These little acts of appreciation keep you and your partner connected even when life gets messy.
- It’s neurological. Research that was done by biological anthropologist Helen Fisher found that certain areas of the brain light up in people who reported a higher level of satisfaction in their relationships. The areas of the brain in question played a huge part in the level of empathy a person feels for their spouse, their ability to control their stress levels, and how they view their partner overall. Couples who are empathetic, relaxed, and genuinely like their partner as a person fared far better than those who didn’t.
- To have kids or not to have kids? There have been countless studies on the effect having children can have on a couple and the end result is pretty grim. As it turns out, having children can put a huge strain on your relationship, and couples that didn’t take the plunge into parenthood were much happier than those who did.
- Birds of a feather flock together. Happy couples tend to associate themselves with other happy couples, and there’s a scientifically-driven reason why this is. Research out of Brown University found that couples who hung around with other long-term relationships people were happier and less likely to break up down the road.
- The fighting figures say a lot. Happy couples fight. It’s inevitable that disagreements will arise in any relationship. One study showed that when a couple fought was far more important than how much they fought. Couples who fought a lot during the beginning stages of the relationship were able to move past arguments quicker and resolve issues that could grow into relationship-ending problems the longer they festered.
- Knowing the roles really does matter. Couples who work together flawlessly tend to do so because they came to agreed-upon terms when it comes to paying bills and household chores. These couples reported being happier in their relationships, even more so than people who split the chores but without discussing who would do what roles.
- Being best friends goes a really long way. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t seen a meme or quote about marrying your best friend. There is some serious scientific evidence to support that old cliche, though. A study was done by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that the happiest couples were more than just a couple—they were best friends.
- Sex matters. It might not be as much as you think it does, but sexual intimacy played a huge role in the overall level of satisfaction couples had with their relationships. The more sex people had with their partners, the happier they were, but the sweet spot for sexual and relationship satisfaction was around once a week.