The connection you and your partner share — as well as your communication style, sharing of values, and commitment to each other — are vital to a lasting relationship. But science also has some secrets when it comes to happy coupledom. (Photo: Getty Images)
First comes love. Then comes marriage. Then comes … wait a minute!
It seems like this popular childhood song is missing a few important steps in the relationship-building process. What about the first date? Or when you’re ready to move in together? How can you tell if your love will last?
“We always take a chance when we make a commitment to a partner — there are no guarantees,” Charlotte N. Markey, PhD, professor of psychology at Rutgers University, tells Yahoo Health. “If we are really invested in the relationship and believe the other person is as well, this is the best way to collect valuable information to inform our relationship decisions.”
And while “opposites attract” applies in a select few cases, it’s more important to find a mate that shares your basic values and approach to life, says Susan K. Whitbourne, PhD, professor of psychology at University of Massachusetts Amherst.
“Your best bet is to find that similarity in underlying life philosophy, as this will carry you through the long haul involved in a committed relationship,” she tells Yahoo Health.
There’s no elixir like love, but how do you get your love potion right? Here are six science-based secrets to finding relationship bliss:
1. Master the language of love.
Communication is a key factor in any long-term relationship, but according to a Texas Tech University study, what matters even more may be the specific language you are using.
Researchers analyzed speed-dating conversations and found that subjects who used similar language functions were more likely to find a match. So don’t forget to be on your best language behavior when talking to a love interest.
2. Remember: It’s not all about six-pack abs and nice hair.
We all love a good eye candy now and again (hello, Ryan Gosling!). But looks aren’t necessarily an indicator of sexual satisfaction, nor are they a predictor of a happier marriage. In a study at the University of Tennessee, researchers asked 82 newlyweds to rate their partner’s attractiveness and found that there was no relationship between the satisfaction of the marriage and their rating of physical attraction.
3. Know when to nod your head and smile.
A happy relationship means knowing when to let things go. A study of 168 couples in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that the trait of agreeableness was linked to more successful, long-lasting marriages.
Being understanding, positive, kind, and agreeable are traits to look for in a mate. Plus, you might even get a little more action between the sheets — the study also found that men who were agreeable found it important to keep sex desire alive in a relationship, and were often more giving and sensitive in bed.
4. Always trust your instincts.
Should you follow your heart or your gut down the aisle?
“To make an informed decision about dating, research suggests that you are best off listening to your instinct,” Whitbourne says.
Researchers at Florida State University followed 135 heterosexual married couples over the course of four years and found that their gut instincts, not their conscious feelings, played a huge role in predicting overall marital happiness over time.
That gut feeling might be telling you when something is right — or conversely, when something is wrong. Researchers at ETH Zurich found that nerves are signaled from the stomach to the brain, which can trigger a warning of impending threat.
“It’s important to be on guard for some characteristics that could spell trouble later on, such as narcissistic or antisocial traits,” Whitbourne tells Yahoo Health.
5. Be each other’s best friend.
In a relationship, it’s healthy for each partner to spend time with their friends. But afterward, do you find yourself rushing home to tell your partner how much fun you had or how much you missed them? A recent study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that one of the best ways to boost happiness in a marriage is when people consider their spouse or partner to be their “best friend.”
6. It’s OK to believe in love at first sight, but tread lightly.
Unlike the new reality TV show Married at First Sight on A&E, studies show that while some cases of “love at first sight” happen fast, it doesn’t always mean that they last.
According to a survey headed by Ayala Malack-Pines, PhD, a professor of psychology at Ben-Gurion University in Israel, only 11 percent of 493 long-term relationships said they fell in “love at first sight.”
It’s a small percentage, but it’s still possible — just be cautious about differentiating between “love at first sight” and “love at first lust.”
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