Pretend you’ve just met
Whether you’ve been together for six months or six years, spend some time each day acting as if you just started dating. Ask him what he thought of that TV episode or share what you’d do if you won the lottery. “Over time, couples stop asking those exploratory, get-to-know-you questions because they think they already understand each other,” says Terri Orbuch, author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great. But because we all continue to change and develop, little daily check-ins like this are what keep the connection growing, according to Orbuch’s research of 373 pairs. Chat about something beside the daily grind – at least for a bit.
Control the boozing
Any relationship will be shaken and stirred by too much alcohol, but research suggests that young adults who drink heavily (meaning four or more drinks on one occasion for women; five or more for men) are less likely to wed in the first place and may be a greater risk for early separation if they do. Partners may be more likely to have commitment issues to begin with, and once they couple up their bonds may be unstable. “If you’re going to be in a solid intimate partnership, you’re going to need all the good judgement and compassion you can muster,” says Dr Hatt. Which means keeping the drinking in check.
Don’t win an Oscar
That is, unless you’d like to thank the academy for ruining your relationship. A Best Actress winner is 63 per cent more likely to have her marriage end before her category mates do, say researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in the US and the University of Toronto, Canada. (And it’s definitely not an honour to be nominated either: 60 per cent of all nominees, male or female, experience at least one divorce after getting a nod.)
While the break-up rate might seem like it’s just celebrity hogwash, the findings may speak to an underlying social norm: sudden one-sided success can put a strain on a romantic partnership. “The increased rate of divorce may be due to a husband’s discomfort with his wife’s success,” says study author Colleen Stuart. “On the other hand, the wife may grow dissatisfied with her current marital arrangement because she now has the confidence and opportunity to move away from a bad relationship.” Try to remain a power couple: encourage and celebrate each other’s successes, big and small.
HAVE YOUR SAY: WHAT'S YOUR SECRET TO A LASTING RELATIONSHIP?
Avid tweeters have shorter relationships – 10 per cent shorter, on average – than those who don’t microblog, according to a survey of more than 800,000 people from dating website OkCupid.com. “Having your eyes glued to your smartphone screen isn’t exactly conducive to romance,” says Dr Hatt. Be sure your tendency toward technology (tweets, texts, etc) doesn’t take up time better spent engaging in heart-to-heart communication with your husband.
Hold a grudge (as long as he doesn’t)
Provided that your partner is able to bounce back from spats, you’ll experience greater satisfaction, even if you tend to stay irritated, according to recent research published in Psychological Science. The mark of a good recovery: you don’t allow conflicts about one issue – say, money – to spill over into other areas of your relationship, such as how you help each other after a tough day, says study author Dr Jessica Salvatore, from the University of Minnesota, US. A yang to your yin yields harmony, so they say...
Burn bras (together)
Forget flowers – feminism is the new romance, say experts at Rutgers University, US. Women whose male partner is a feminist report better relationship quality, while men with feminist partners experience more sexual satisfaction and relationship stability. “A male feminist partner may increase a woman’s ability to realise her own goals and career ambitions,” says study author Dr Laurie Rudman. “And male feminists are probably not threatened by their partner’s strivings.” Plus, these women may be more likely to initiate sex, and no bloke is going to complain about that.
Be the beauty to his beast
Coupling up with an average Joe (with a beer belly) may be the key to long-term love. According to a study in the Journal of Family Psychology, when men were married to more attractive women, they seemed more likely to step up to the plate, says study author Dr Benjamin Karney. “But when husbands were better-looking, they didn’t seem as engaged in helping their wives achieve their goals.” (Size matters too: When women had a lower BMI than their bloke, both partners tended to be more satisfied, according to other research.) The real secret to success? Support. Whether you’re motivated by a gorgeous face or some other quality, couples are more likely to enjoy long-run happiness when they’re invested in each other’s welfare.
Twist the sheets at least once a week
Australia’s Biggest Health Check Survey* found that the average woman has sex around once a week, but increasing the frequency of your romps generates as much bliss as scoring an extra $50,000 in income, according to researchers from Dartmouth College, US and the University of Warwick, UK. It’s not so much the sex itself that leads to happiness; the frequency is a better marker for a successful relationship. “Couples who like each other end up in bed more often,” says study author Dr Andrew Oswald. “And it’s the liking-each-other part that increases joy.” But seriously, who needs a reason? Bank on more booty.
Limit the chick flicks
If Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Reynolds regularly appear in your living room, your union could be in the danger zone. “Romantic comedies can set up unreasonable expectations, which may lead to unnecessary suffering,” says psychologist Dr Sean Patrick Hatt. “Comparing yourselves with idealised others is a recipe for misery.” Sure, rom-coms can be feel-good escapes, but they may also promote magical thinking about relationships. For example, as partnerships mature and the initial intensity tends to fade, many couples try to recapture the euphoria they had in the beginning, says Hatt. “And that sort of thinking is only reinforced by Hollywood endings,” he adds. Hitting the DVD shop? Treat the rom-coms as just that – a treat.
Nurture your friends’ relationships
You might divorce-proof your own. According to Brown University, US, researchers, the break-up of a close friend’s marriage increases your own odds of splitting by as much as 75 per cent. “Some people may see another’s divorce as permission to change their own life,” suggests study co-author Dr Rose McDermott. Alternatively, when you encourage your friends to stay together (happily), you may generate reasons that also apply to your bond.*A SURVEY OF 25,919 WOMEN BY WOMEN’S HEALTH IN CONJUNCTION WITH PREVENTION, PRICELINE AND SUNRISE.