Why do some relationships look so promising, yet dissolve over time? And why do others, whose partners seem hopelessly mismatched, grow stronger? It’s not how well two prospective partners matched up on a dating site. It’s not about personality features, personal history, or interests. These do play a role in predicting long-term relationship success, but the study found they play a much smaller role than one might think.
What’s the “Secret”?
The strongest predictor is the kind of relationship the partners create together, over time. That is, the quality of the relationship they experience transcends individual traits or characteristics in predicting the couple’s happiness over time. The person we choose is not nearly as important as the relationship we build. It’s the overall way the partners relate to each other. The dynamic that you build with someone — the shared norms, the in-jokes, the shared experiences — is so much more than the separate individuals who make up that relationship. A mutual sense of strong commitment to each other; and responsiveness to each other’s needs: “I know he/she has my back. A mutual level of enjoyment with their sex life. A sense that their partner was happy with their relationship, and an infrequent, low level of conflict with each other.
How Couples Build It
A willingness to forgo personal interests and knowing when to put your partner’s needs ahead of your own. Letting go of self-interest in this way is directly linked to a long-lasting, happy relationship. Feeling appreciated and valued by your partner. That tends to strengthen your marriage or committed relationship, and it increases your belief about how enduring your relationship will be over time. Arelationship is strengthened when your stressed-out partner feels really understood and listened to. It occurs not just through words of support, but through multiple forms of conveying empathy — eye contact, listening, and generally conveying understanding and caring, nonverbally. The key is tuning in to what your partner perceives as helpful. Inquire about that if you’re not sure — and don’t assume that you know.
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