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The Two Questions That Could Protect Your Relationship

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The Two Questions That Could Protect Your Relationship

Falling in love is always blissful, perhaps due in part to sweet unpredictability of what lies ahead. Falling out of love on the other hand can vary from a slowly progressing dull ache to an excrutiating, life-sapping mess.

According to a recent study, the slow simmering approach of a relationship breakdown can be predicted up to six years out.

Researchers claim two key questions can predict whether or not a marriage will still be standing six years on.

You would think that predicting happiness, love and relationship staying power would be dizzying in its complexity, but no – the method is gloriously simple and involves two questions:

  1. How happy are you in your marriage relative to how happy you would be if you weren’t in the marriage?
  2. How do you think your spouse answered that question?

The Research. 

Researchers Leora Friedberg and Steven Stern from the University of Virginia analysed data provided by 4,242 couples. Six years later, the couples were asked the same questions. They found that

  • Those who indicated in the first round of questions that they would be just as happy out of the relationship were more likely to have broken up by the follow-up six years later ).
  • Interestingly, those who overestimated their spouse’s happiness were more likely to have divorced within six years than those who simply said they would be happier out of the relationship.

Less than half the participants (41%) were able to accurately gauge how their partner felt about the relationship. 

According to Friedberg and Stern, it’s the lack of insight into a partner’s happiness or unhappiness that is at the heart of many relationship problems.

Without a proper handle on how your partner feels in the relationship, you can wrongly assume that your partner has more to give.

The more a spouse overestimates the happiness of their partner, the more he or she will ask of that partner and potentially push too hard, to the point where the partner feels resentful, distances themselves or makes the decision that the single life would be a better option.

Based on their findings, the researchers suggest that couples should ‘pick their battles’ because pushing too hard all the time will only push a partner away.

We all have plenty to gain by negotiating a little harder, but it seems we also have plenty to lose if we wrongly assume our partner has more to give.

Relationships flourish through conversation. Ask your partner how happy he or she is in the relationship and before asking for more, find out if there’s more to give. There might not be, but that doesn’t necessarily indicate unhappiness with the relationship. Other things – work, family, kids – might be taking more of their share for a while.

Problems come with the assumption that a relationship still sets off butterflies. Maybe it does. And maybe it doesn’t. Maybe it’s more like a bug, and tummy bugs can turn nasty if left.

Dissatisfaction has a way of sneaking into places it’s not welcome, and there’s nowhere it’s more unwelcome than in relationships. 

Turning dissatisfaction around starts by being aware that it’s there. And a gorgeous bunch of flowers won’t hurt. Neither will a special note. Or his favourite homemade meal. Her favourite magazine waiting on the bed would be crazy good.

People change, expectations change and needs change. Relationships can’t help but change in response – but they can change as in flourish or change as in flounder. Relationships go off track when assumptions take the place of conversation. Talk hard, love hard, play hard, and you’ll be there to catch the relationship on the first sign that it might be falling away.

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