This tip proves true for every culture, age and income range. (Photo: Getty Images)
Agree to disagree. Never go to bed angry. Relationships aren’t about sex. Have sex twice weekly. Always sleep naked.
The unsolicited advice you receive when you’re married or in a long-term relationship is as varied as it is contradictory. And confusing — if you go to bed agreeing to disagree, should you sleep naked?
Luckily, new research has boiled the key to spousal success down to one simple tip. And this tip holds true worldwide, across cultures, ages and incomes: Find a significant other who is also your best friend.
A new paper from The National Bureau of Economic Research analyzed wellbeing data from two national surveys in the United Kingdom and the Gallup World Poll to search for common threads that weave together a happy marriage.
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They found that the biggest similarity among happily committed relationships worldwide — and the largest point of difference among those who are not married or partnered — was friendship. Approximately half of married people and of those who are cohabiting list their partner as their best friend. Conversely, less than 5 percent of people in any other marital status consider their partner to be their best friend.
Married individuals who are besties with their spouse also seem to be more satisfied in life, enjoying nearly twice as much additional life satisfaction than those who are not — even when controlling for age, gender, income, health, and previous life satisfaction. So if you’re generally a happy person, marriage will make you happier. If you’re generally an unhappy person, you’ll see the same benefit.
Interestingly, the wellbeing benefit of being married to one’s best friend appears much higher for women than for men, although on average fewer women than men regard their spouse as their best friend.
And while all friends are important for happiness, those who are married to each other become what the researchers call “super-friends,” compounding their wellbeing benefits to produce a much-stronger-than-normal friendship.
This friendship can also help explain why, in most studies, people who are unmarried but living as a couple enjoy most of the well-being benefits that married couples do.
So. Do you consider your partner to be your best friend? If so great — you’re done here. If not, read on — We tapped relationship expert David Sbarra, associate professor of psychology at the University of Arizona, for his top three tips to becomes super-friends with your significant other.
Cultivating a great relationship is tough — but rewarding — work. “In order to get there you need to be ready and willing to do the work,” says Sbarra.
1. Have fun together
“It’s critical to spend time with your partner doing fun and exciting activities,” says Sbarra. Get out of the ruts of daily life by spending real time together doing fun things. This is a key for building lasting intimacy.”
2. Fight right
“It’s critical that you learn how to fight well and to deescalate conflicts when they arise,” says Sbarra. “Humor can be a great tool for calming things down when fights get heated.”
3. Cherish your partner
“I also think an important secret for building a great relationship is to think of your partner as the most cherished thing in your life,” says Sbarra. “With this, comes forgiveness, tenderness, and tons of admiration and support.”
Now that’s some relationship advice we truly comprehend.
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