8 Scientific Facts About Successful Marriages

8 Scientific Facts About Successful Marriages

What science has to say about keeping a marriage happy, healthy, and strong.

By: Maressa Brown

Before you even tie the knot, you’re bound to hear statistics about marriage success rates. (Gotta love those oh-so-helpful friends or family members who say you have a 50/50 chance of making it!) But what about the hopeful numbers and facts we can apply to our own relationships? Here, eight scientific facts about successful marriages that may make yours even stronger.

1. Being on the same page about money helps. Researchers from University of Michigan's Ross School of Business analyzed surveys of more than 1,000 married and unmarried adults and concluded that people tended to choose romantic partners who had an opposite approach to money. Financial opposites had greater conflicts over money and lower marital satisfaction in the long run than those whose spending tendencies were similar.

2. Saying “thank you” goes a long way. Dividing up household chores can be stressful and can lay the groundwork for resentment when one person feels he or she is picking up the other’s slack. But that’s where showing gratitude can save the day and smooth over rough spots in your relationship, researchers from Arizona State University found.

They asked married partners whether they appreciated the chores done by the other person. People who felt appreciated -- and were told “thank you” by their partners -- had less resentment over any imbalance in labor and more satisfaction with their relationships than other study participants did.

3. Keeping at it. You’ve heard marriage is work, and that’s certainly true, if you want to keep sparks flying! Researchers reviewed surveys of more than 6,000 people -- some in new relationships and others who had been with the same person for at least 20 years -- and published findings in the Review of General Psychology. They found that couples who worked hard at keeping romance alive -- meaning they considered their relationship very central to their lives, something they spend time and really care about -- were also able to resolve conflicts relatively smoothly. Sounds like a win-win!

More from P&G everyday: 6 Smart Ways to Resolve Conflicts in Your Marriage

4. Using “we” words gets you in sync. When you’re single, hearing a coupled-up friend overuse the word “we” to describe her interests or activities can be pretty annoying. But as it turns out, using “couple-focused words” like “we,” “us,” and “our” can keep a marriage firing on all cylinders. A study published in the journal Psychology and Aging found that spouses who spoke about conflict with these words were also more affectionate, showed fewer negative behaviors (like anger), and had lower psychological stress levels during disagreement. Meanwhile, using words like “I,” “you,” and “me” indicated “separateness” -- and was linked to marital dissatisfaction.

5. Altruism is the key to bliss. Do altruistic people have happier marriages or do happier marriages make people more altruistic? Well, that's still unclear; however, at least one study does show altruism and happy marriage going hand in hand. For a survey by the National Opinion Research Center, participants were asked whether they agreed with the statements, “I'd rather suffer myself than let the one I love suffer” and “I'm willing to sacrifice my own wishes to let the one I love achieve his or hers.” Sixty-seven percent of the more altruistic participants rated their own marriages as “very happy” while only 50 percent of the less altruistic were very happy in their marriages.

More from P&G everyday: 6 Ways Parents Can Keep Their Marriages Strong and Happy


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6. Being likeminded is a happiness booster. A study published in the journal Social Behavior and Personality found that most successful marriages are between two “adaptor” personalities. Being an adaptor means being able to pinpoint mutually beneficial solutions to problems in the marriage. The researchers say the takeaway here is that even if you’re not a natural adaptor, thinking and acting like one -- particularly when it comes to problem solving -- can bolster your relationship.

7. Teaming up makes you stronger. Whether you run a 5K or save for and plan a vacation together, working as a team to achieve a win can enhance your marital bliss, according to researchers at Stony Brook University. They asked couples, “How much does your partner provide a source of exciting experiences? How much has knowing your partner made you a better person? How much do you see your partner as a way to expand your own capabilities?”

Then, they conducted experiments that stimulated what they call “self-expansion,” or how much a partner broadens your horizons. Couples who engaged in a challenging activity together had greater increases in love and relationship satisfaction than those who didn’t and didn’t experience a victory together.

8. It won’t hurt to idealize your partner. A University of Geneva review of 500 studies on compatibility concluded that there wasn’t any combination of two personality traits in a relationship that predicted long-term romantic love -- except one. People who could idealize and maintain positive illusions about their partner (like see them as attractive, intelligent, funny, etc.) remained happy with each other over time.

Which of these are you most surprised by?

Maressa Brown is a senior staff writer for The Stir. She loves writing about and reading up on health/fitness, relationships, and pop culture -- preferably on a beach somewhere.

Image ©iStock.com/kupicoo

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