Is There Science to the Perfect Marriage?
Please enjoy this week’s guest post written exclusively for Mad About Marriage by Sophia Emma!
Having a good – if not perfect – marriage is something many people are interested in. In a report on the current state of marriage, researchers highlighted a long-held social belief that the best marriages consist of two people who are stable, and have already reached a level of maturity after fully experiencing single life. While the study debunks the idea that delaying marriage leads to better outcomes, it does point out our ever-increasing standards for marriage as a society.
It’s unsurprising, then, that many researchers and social scientists pay much attention to figuring out the best practices to make marriage work. In fact, this is why graduates with a degree in human development and family studies are in fairly high demand, with median pay ranging from $50,000 to $65,000. These professionals study human issues and champion healthy family development by teaching effective communication, parenting, interpersonal, and coping skills to couples. So to answer our question: yes, there are science-based “hacks” these experts would recommend. Here are some of those aforementioned tips:
Marry someone who shares similar habits
Although opposites do attract and often complement each other, studies tell us that sharing habits with your spouse could lead to more satisfaction. For instance, women are happier when their husbands share the same chronotype (whether they are a morning or an evening person), while married couples who have matching drinking habits are happier than those that don’t. It may seem simple, but being aligned in those little habits lead to a larger effect, like the amount of quality time spent together.
On a more serious note, sharing similar money habits can lead to less conflict over money and more satisfaction in the long run. Financial problems would bother couples more if one of them enjoys saving while the other is a spendthrift — versus if two spendthrifts are married, because they’d argue less.
Keep your expectations high
Research tells us that when we expect more, we get more. Couples with idealistic standards for romance, good treatment, and communication often have that kind of marriage. These reasonably high expectations don’t doom couples to disappointment. Rather, it helps them experience satisfaction when a partner does meet said expectations.
Expect the best from your partner and believe in them. Establishing rituals in relationships can also bond individuals. Celebrations like holidays and events you create as a couple (like Saturday movie night) may seem routine, but the symbolic meaning goes beyond just a simple night doing something together — so make it a point to have expectations for how these days are celebrated.
Have tough conversations and arguments
Science tells us that we actually need to fight more to have healthy relationships. Couples who believe conflict is a bad sign often struggle, as avoiding arguments can diminish their psychological well-being. When you neglect conversations about important relationship topics, you also miss the opportunity to improve your bond. If you embrace naturally-arising conflict and low-stakes disagreements, then you will have fewer big confrontations.
These should be fair fights, of course. You should approach the conversation with empathy and kindness from the start, always assuming the best intentions from your spouse. Stick to the topic and avoid devolving into personal attacks. The issue itself will pass, but personal attacks are remembered long after the right ends and chip away at mutual respect.
Don’t forget laughter, fun, and gratitude
Divorce isn’t usually caused by an increase in negative instances, but a decrease in the positives. Some social scientists note that the appropriate ratio is 5:1 – every negative interaction should be mitigated by five positive ones to reaffirm the relationship. The fun and friendship you have as a couple is a strong predictor for your future, so celebrate good moments and express gratitude for each other.
As we mentioned in our previous article, hugging and laughing reduces stress. These are simple ways to nurture emotional intimacy, so we can feel appreciated, accepted, joyful, and desired. At the end of the day, marital satisfaction requires our intentionality — to send sweet texts, go on dates, and joke around with our spouse. It’s hard work, but science tells us our marriages can benefit from the rewards.