Finally, after all these years and all these self help books written by therapists with bangs photographed in soft focus, scientists have definitively discovered the secret to marriage. Are you ready for it? Here it is: Be nice to each other.
This bit of mind-blowing news brought to you by a group of scientists who studied couples' marital satisfaction (and the effect on obvious conclusions on research grant money). Researchers at the University of Virginia's National Marriage Project asked more than 2,800 married people about the presence of generosity in their relationships with their spouses, and, surprise of surprises, they found that people who reported being in generous relationships reported higher levels of satisfaction with their love lives than those who had relationships based on nonstop mutual assholery.
The New York Times reports that for the purposes of the study, "generosity" was defined as "the virtue of giving good things to one's spouse freely and abundantly." Activities from making your partner breakfast or acting like you're super excited about blow jobs four times per month to giving your partner a car with a giant red bow on top for Christmas count as "generous" behaviors. And people who reported that they were "very happy" in their marriages were almost across-the-board also very generous. The benefit of generosity was especially pronounced in couples with kids.
Dr. W. Bradford Wilcox, who led the study and has a name that lends itself well to murder mystery board games, said of the findings,
In marriage we are expected to do our fair share when it comes to housework, child care and being faithful, but generosity is going above and beyond the ordinary expectations with small acts of service and making an extra effort to be affectionate. Living that spirit of generosity in a marriage does foster a virtuous cycle that leads to both spouses on average being happier in the marriage.
But I thought Cosmo told me that the secret to getting and keeping a man was nonstop bizarre sexual histrionics. I'm all confused.
The question of whether or not generosity preserves marriages or if satisfying relationships foster generosity is a bit of a chicken-or-egg question; after all, people who like their partners a lot tend to be more willing to do nice things for them like hand wash their delicates or liberally apply backrubs than people who resent their partners. And other important relationship elements like sexual satisfaction, communication, and commitment may lead to couples to like each other more, and, in turn, be nicer. But researchers found that high levels of marital generosity were able to overcome a dearth of other factors many would consider essential for wedded bliss; 6% of men and 7% of women who participated in the study reported very high levels of satisfaction with their partners despite of having low sexual satisfaction. All of them had high generosity levels.
The Generous Marriage [NYT]
Image via bluehand/Shutterstock.