A new study claims it has found the three keys to a happy romantic relationship. And much to my surprise, none of my guesses–expressing your feelings solely through interpretive dance and icy, silent glares; taking off your bra to distract during an argument; and settling major relationships issues with a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors–made the list.
So what are the key factors linked to happy couplehood? The study tested 2,201 participants referred by couples counselors on seven “relationship competencies” believed to be important in promoting happiness in romantic relationships. The researchers tested for communication, conflict resolution, sex, stress management, life skills, knowledge of one’s partner, and self-management. Of the seven, only three had strong links to relationship happiness:
This is the big one—and probably the least surprising one to anyone particularly good or bad at communicating with their partner. Expressing your needs and feelings to your partner in a positive way was key to the happiness of the relationship.
2. Knowledge of Your Partner
Do you know your partner’s dark secrets? Their hopes and dreams? Their favorite book, guilty pleasure TV show, least favorite pizza topping? Though the importance of communication speaks to emotional needs within a relationship, this one is more practical…but just as important. Robert Epstein, the study’s lead author, points out that strengthening this aspect of the relationship can be relatively easy—as easy as remembering your anniversary, your partner’s birthday, and the names of the friends and relatives. The big stuff is also important—critical subjects like whether you and your partner want children is must-know information.
3. Life Skills
Losing out on promotions because you’re always late? Forget to pay the cable bill on time… every month? Struggle to add money to your savings account to prepare for the future? Those things can erode your relationship even if it’s healthy in other ways. “Communication skills are necessary,” Lisa Neff, a couples researcher at the University of Texas at Austin told Time, “but they’re not sufficient when couples are under stress.”