Psychologists have spent years studying the traits that are fundamental to successful long-term relationships. We listed some of their most surprising insights below.
A word of caution: If you notice that your relationship doesn’t meet all these criteria, that does not necessarily mean you should end things with your partner. Consider this list a general set of guidelines that can help you start evaluating whether your current relationship is bringing you satisfaction and happiness.
Here are some signs your relationship is as strong as a rock.
You think about your partner often when you’re not together
In 2007, Stonybrook University researchers randomly dialed hundreds of adults and asked the nearly 300 who were married a series of questions about their relationships and how in love they felt.
Results showed that certain relationship characteristics were linked to stronger feelings of love. One especially interesting finding: The more often people reported thinking about their partner when they were apart, the more in love they felt.
The same study included a follow-up experiment with nearly 400 married New Yorkers, which found that difficulty concentrating on other things while you’re thinking about your partner is also linked to strong feelings of love – especially for men.
You respond positively to each other’s good news
Business Insider previously reported that one litmus test of a happy relationship is how enthusiastically each partner responds to the other’s good news.
A Psychology Today blog post breaks down four ways a man could respond after his partner tells him about a promotion at work:
• An active-constructive response from him would be enthusiastic support: “That’s great, honey! I knew you could do it, you’ve been working so hard.”
• A passive-constructive response would be understated support – a warm smile and a simple “That’s good news.”
• An active-destructive response would be a statement that demeaned the event: “Does this mean you are going to be working even longer hours now? Are you sure you can handle it?”
• Finally, a passive-destructive response would virtually ignore the good news: “Oh, really? Well, you won’t believe what happened to me on the drive home today!”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the response that’s most closely linked to relationship satisfaction is the active-constructive response.
You spend some time apart
Over the past few decades, we’ve started placing increasing demands on our spouses. As Business Insider’s Jessica Orwig reported, no longer do we expect them to be financial partners, protectors, and companions – now we also want them to provide personal fulfillment.
The psychologist who produced some of these findings, Eli Finkel, suggests that if you want to be happy in your marriage, it’s best not to look to your partner for all your existential needs. Finkel recommends finding yourself in hobbies, friends, and work.
You have a similar sense of humor
Neil Clark Warren, psychologist and founder of dating site eHarmony, previously told Business Insider that humor can be a “social lubricant” in a romantic relationship.
Business Insider’s Erin Brodwin has reported that having a “private language” with your partner – like nicknames and jokes that no one else would get – can help facilitate bonding and often predicts relationship satisfaction.
You split chores evenly
In one poll, 56% of married Americans said sharing household chores is “very important” to a successful marriage – that’s more than the percentage who said having adequate income was very important. Chore-sharing seems to be especially meaningful to younger couples, with 67 percent of 18- to 29-year-old married adults calling it “very important” to a successful marriage.
But while men are doing more housework than they were in years past, research has found that women still pick up most of the slack.
You try new things together
In classic research led by relationship expert Art Aron in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, researchers looked at the relationship quality of more than 50 middle-aged married couples and assigned them to one of three groups.
One group picked new and exciting activities to do together for 90 minutes a week – like going to a play or dancing. Another group spent 90 minutes a week doing pleasant but routine activities together – like going to a movie. The last group wasn’t asked to change anything.
After 10 weeks, the researchers reassessed the couples’ relationship quality and found that those who had tried new and exciting things were the most satisfied.