Forming a great relationship can be complex—but it isn’t rocket science.
If you are a regular consumer of media offerings—from TV, radio, the internet, and other sources—you know how easy it is to feel overwhelmed by the avalanche of information dispensed each week. When it comes to love and romance, there are no shortage of studies providing tips and techniques, some helpful, some not so much.
The good news is that even though highly intelligent people research and report on relationships, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand what it takes to have a great one. If you can strip away the arcane and academic language, some fairly simple and straightforward principles emerge.
A few years ago, respected journalist Tara Parker-Pope began sifting through mountains of research, examining trends, and interviewing experts about marriage. And last year, she presented her findings in the book “For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage.”1 Drawing on her extensive investigation, she provides seven strategies for maintaining a strong, satisfying relationship:
1. Celebrate Good News. It’s not enough that your partner knows that you take pride in his or her accomplishments. You have to show it. Making a fuss over the small, good things that happen every day can boost the health of your relationship.
2. Know the Mathematics of Marriage. Even when you make a mistake, tell yourself that you’re going to do at least five positive things for your spouse to make up for it, and then do them. And don’t wait until you bicker to turn on the charm. Nice gestures and comments go far, they are easy to do, and they will help insulate your marriage from being damaged by the inevitable bad days.
3. Keep Your Standards High. Husbands and wives who hold their partners to a reasonably high standard have better marriages. If you expect a better, more satisfying relationship, you improve your chances of having one.
4. Pay Attention to Family and Friends. A strong social network takes pressure off your spouse to singlehandedly to meet your needs. Sometimes, improving a relationship means giving it a break. Increasing your connections with family, friends, and society is good for you both.
5. Don’t Expect Your Partner to Make You Happy. Research should offer couples a large dose of reassurance. While the early euphoria of a new marriage does drop, that doesn’t mean we have become less happy with each other or less happy in life. It just means that as individuals, we aren’t dependent on marriage as a main source of life happiness. People who get married are typically happy to start with, and marriage doesn’t change that.
6. Just Do It. Sex won’t solve all of your problems, but it will certainly help. The simple act of having sex—even when you’re not in the mood—harnesses your body’s brain chemistry, unleashing powerful bonding chemicals.
7. Reignite Romance. Protect your relationship by regularly trying new things and sharing new experiences with your partner. Make a list of the favorite things you and your spouse do together, and then make a list of the fun things you’d like to try. Avoid old habits and make plans to do something fresh and different once a week.
Even though these strategies are mostly aimed at married couples, the information can be extremely helpful for everyone. From your observation and experience, do you agree with these seven essentials?
Amid all the complex information that comes at you, use these seven principles as a starting point to evaluate the potential durability of your relationship.
1. Tara Parker-Pope, For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage (New York: Dutton, 2010).