7 Things Researchers Know About the Science of Long-Lasting LoveNone By Jennifer Abbasi
The oft-quoted statistic that roughly half of all marriages end in divorce may leave you wondering if love that lasts a lifetime is simply a myth. Take heart: A recent study found that a surprising number of people are still very much in love with their partners after 20 years of marriage. In fact, brain scans of people in happy long-term relationships show the same activation in areas associated with reward, motivation and "wanting" as those experiencing new love. Even better, long-term romantic love (unlike new love) stimulates regions of the brain that quell anxiety and pain. This suggests that well-worn romantic love offers a unique combination of benefits: happiness—plus a sense of calmness.
Now that we know that falling out of love isn't inevitable (hallelujah!), let's get inspired to strive for long-lasting love. Here's what science tells us are the secrets to living happily ever after:
Be Five Times Nicer Than You Are Nasty
For every unhappy exchange, we need at least five happy ones to nourish love, says relationship expert John Gottman, Ph.D. According to his research, relationships are stable and happy when the ratio of positive to negative interactions is at least 5:1. Notice that this so-called "Magic Ratio" does allow for negative interactions, which Gottman says are necessary for partners to move past conflict.
Do Your Share of the Dishes
Sharing household chores is surprisingly important for a successful marriage—the only factors that ranked higher in Pew Research Center surveys from both 2007 and 1990 were fidelity and a happy sexual relationship. That said, even among couples that do split the workload, chores tend to fall to one partner more than the other (in heterosexual relationships, usually the woman). If you're the lazy bones at home, simply saying "thank you" can help to limit your partner's resentment and ensure their relationship satisfaction, according to research from Arizona State University.
Watch Your Words
Most of us know that communication is key to a successful relationship—even if we're not so good at it. One trick: Use more "couple-focused" pronouns, like "we," "our" and "us" when you're having a conflict with your significant other. One study published in the journal Psychology and Aging found that these words helped partners get through disagreements with more affection, less anger and lower stress, while pronouns like "I," "you" and