How do some couples keep going strong after decades and other couples just fizzle out and dissolve?
Researchers have long tried to answer that question by attempting to find the individual characteristics that comprise a successful relationship. Many of these characteristics have revealed the ingredients to the relationship success sauce, but recent research has unveiled a vital ingredient that is often overlooked or ignored.
Let’s dive into the secret sauce of the happiest couples and then look at some helpful add-in ingredients to strengthen relationships.
The Secret Sauce of the Happiest Couples
A new study of 11,000 couples conducted by Western University (Canada) found that the strongest predictor of a successful relationship is the kind the partners create together over time. In other words, the secret sauce is the quality of the relationship each partner experiences, being greater than the individual traits or characteristics each partner brings to the table.
Lead researcher and psychologist Samantha Joel of Western University states, “It suggests that the person we choose is not nearly as important as the relationship we build.” What she is saying is that is boils down to the overall way the partners relate to one another. She adds, “The dynamic you build with someone – the shared norms, the in-jokes, the shared experiences – is so much more than the separate individuals who make up that relationship.”
The research revealed that the ongoing pattern of the relationship was a much stronger determinant of happiness in the relationship than a partner’s individual characteristics (like anxiety levels, depression, attachment pattern, and whether or not the partner’s parents had a stable marriage or divorce). Some of the main features of perceiving the quality of the relationship include:
- How committed one partner perceives the other to be
- How appreciated a partner feels by the other
- Sexual satisfaction of both partners within the relationship
- The perceived level of the opposite partner’s satisfaction with the relationship
- An infrequent, low-level of conflict within the relationship
What research is unable to show is how successful couples “cook up” that kind of connection, trust, and pleasure. Let’s take a look at some possible ingredients to make that sauce just right:
Four Helpful Ingredients of Creating a Successful Relationship
Maybe at this point you might be saying to yourself, “My relationship is not where I want it to be.” Well, here are some ways that you can add some extra goodness to your relationship sauce:
- Look each other in the eye – often. By looking into your partner’s eyes, you are affirming that intimate connection you share. When you make eye contact with your partner, you are giving that person a glimpse into your emotional world and restoring the connection between you.
- Let go of self-interest. Know when to put your partner’s needs ahead of your own. This is directly linked to a long-lasting, successful relationship.
- Laugh with each other. When partners can laugh at themselves and laugh off the other’s mistakes, it makes the relationship feel safe and secure, ready for authenticity and forgiveness.
- Convey understanding and caring towards your partner. If your partner is stressed out or struggling, support them with caring words and empathy. A study at Wake Forest University found that when a partner is really understood and listened to, the relationship overall is strengthened.
Like gourmet cooking, building a solid, successful relationship is an art. It takes the right ingredients used at the right time to make the right sauce. Couples who have long-lasting, successful relationships know how to add the right ingredients to create positive patterns that help the relationship grow over time. Love is much more than a feeling – it is an action. It takes work to make the magic sauce that keeps your relationship strong.