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7 scientific secrets to a happy marriage

Celebrate good news, keep your standards high, and have more sex.

Image: Wedding via Shutterstock

NEW YORK TIMES writer Tara Parker-Pope pulled together the science behind nuptial bliss in her book “For Better.”

Here’s the seven-point recipe for a happy marriage that she spells out in “For Better: How the Surprising Science of Happy Couples Can Help Your Marriage Succeed”:

1. Celebrate Good News

Turns out divorce isn’t as much about increased negative things as it is about decreased positive things. As this tip from the book points out:

“We’ve found that the positives are more and more important,” says Howard Markman, co-director of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver and one of the nation’s leading marriage researchers. “It turns out that the amount of fun couples have and the strength of their friendships are a strong predictor of their future.”

What to do? Celebrate the good moments more.

2. Five To One

How many good moments do you need to make up for the bad ones? Research has a ratio for you: five to one.

You don’t need to count every single positive and negative but if they’re nearly equal, your chance of divorce shoots way up.

As University of Washington researchers reviewed the data, a striking pattern emerged. In stable marriages, there are at least five times more positive interactions than negative ones. When the ratio starts to drop, the marriage is at high risk for divorce.

3. Keep Your Standards High

More and more people are told their expectations for marriage are too high. Research says the reverse: People who expect more, get more.

Don’t settle for a second-rate marriage.

Dr. Baucom found that people who have idealistic standards, who really want to be treated well and who want romance and passion from their marriage, end up getting that kind of marriage.

4. Stay Close To Family And Friends

Today marriage has become a two-person cocoon that we expect to get all our support and intimacy from. That’s not healthy or realistic.

Keep friends and family in the loop. Your marriage should be your primary relationship — not your only one.

According to an expert quoted in the book: “The happiest couples, she says, are those who have interests and support ‘beyond the twosome’”.

(Here’s how to improve your friendships.)

5. Don’t Expect Your Spouse To Make You Happy

Research shows most people’s happiness eventually returns to their natural baseline, even after very positive events like a wedding.

Happiness lies within the individual and expecting a spouse to change that forever is unrealistic and unfair.

What is surprising is that research shows happiness is relatively stable. A major life event (like marriage or the birth of a child) may offer a short-term happiness boost, but studies suggest most people return to their own personal happiness “set point.”

(You can rise above your baseline — but most people don’t do it right. Here’s how to get happier.)

6. Have More Sex

Over the course of a marriage, desire can lessen. Despite this, sex is healthy and has all kinds of biological and emotional benefits that should not be ignored.

Over time, regular sex can improve your mood, make you more patient, damp down anger, and lead to a better, more contented relationship.

7. Excitement

Couples don’t need more “pleasant” activities – they need more exciting activities to hold on to the rush they felt when they first fell in love.

As the book says:

Protect your marriage by regularly trying new things and sharing new experiences with your spouse. 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.

All tips in quotes via via “For Better: How the Surprising Science of Happy Couples Can Help Your Marriage Succeed“.

Read: Catholic pamphlets from 1920s-50s advised on marriage, swearing and becoming a nun>

Read: “I have five wives – but it’s not about religion”>

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Business Insider
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