Finding and keeping a lifelong love can feel like a crapshoot. No matter how madly in love you may be, maintaining a marriage is never easy. And while you may know that sex, trust and compassion are crucial to keeping the flame alive, you may not be clued into some of science’s more surprising findings about what makes a marriage last.
Here are eight unexpected factors that may make for a happy, lasting marriage:
1. Having a cheaper wedding.
You may be tempted to bless your marriage with a fairytale wedding, but according to research from Emory University, couples who have thriftier celebrations are more likely to stay together. Among female respondents, those with a wedding bill higher than $20,000 divorced at 3.5 times the rate of those with a $5,000-$10,000 wedding bill.
2. Meeting online.
According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, couples who meet online have a lower divorce rate and report higher levels of marital satisfaction. Just another reason to brag about finding your spouse through the interwebs!
3. But not living on social media.
Are you Facebooking your way to divorce? According to a 2014 study from Boston University and published in Computers in Human Behavior, you just might be. Researchers determined that the use of Facebook and other social networking sites is linked to increased marital dissatisfaction and increased divorce rates. They also found that, among heavy social media users, 32 percent had thought about leaving their significant others, compared to 16 percent of non-social media users.
4. Watching movies together.
According to a study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, couples who regularly watch movies together stay together. When researchers asked couples to watch films and talk for 30 minutes about the characters’ romantic relationships, they saw divorce rates shrink by half. That’s because conversations about movie characters’ relationships act as safer environments for couples to think and talk critically about their own relationships.
5. Responding to your spouse’s random, distracting comments.
According to psychologist John Gottman, when your partner interrupts your reading to point out a dumb meme on the Internet, they’re not just trying to amuse you — they’re asking for your positive attention. And if you’re constantly responding, “Not now, I’m busy,” you’re hurting your relationship.
After studying these types of interactions between newlywed couples and following up with the couples six years later, Gottman found that still-married couples had paid attention to their partner during these little random interactions nine times out of ten, while couples that divorced had only paid attention to one another three times out of ten.
6. Using the word “we” during arguments.
“I” love “you” is great, but “we” love “us” is better. According to a study from the University of California, Berkeley, couples who use the word “we” and “us” during conflicts were better able to resolve arguments and suffered less stress from those arguments, compared to couples who used words like “I,” “me,” and “you.” The study also found that using individual pronouns was linked to having an unhappy marriage.
7. Putting your partner on a pedestal.
Think your partner walks on water? Hold onto that thought — for life. According to research from the University of Buffalo, viewing your partner with starry eyes may be key in preserving your marital happiness. The study asked 222 couples to rank their partner and themselves on a variety of characteristics several times over the course of three years. Those who over-inflated their partners’ characteristics were more likely to stay blissful in their union.
8. Doing things that you both enjoy.
You may think sharing in leisure time is the most important thing in the world. However, findings published in the Journal of Marriage and Family indicate that sharing activities one partner strongly dislikes actually decreases marital happiness. When couples engage in activities both partners enjoy, both their short and long term marital happiness increased. Researchers concluded that it’s less important that the two of you share the same activities than that you both are participating in hobbies that you actually enjoy, whether it’s together or separately.