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Two scientists believe they’ve found the two questions that show – with “clear empirical evidence” – if you’re really in love and whether your marriage will last or not.
The questions are:
1) How happy are you in your marriage versus how happy you’d be if you weren’t in it?
2) How do you think your spouse answered that question?
See? Very simple. These are the exact questions that University of Virginia economists Leora Friedberg and Steven Stern asked 4,242 couples on two occasions, six years apart.
After analysing the data, they discovered that those who thought they’d be just as happy not in their marriage were more likely to have broken up by the second round of questioning. (Post continues after gallery.)
“While the questions take quite a broad approach and there is room for many layers of follow-up questions, they are certainly a good starting point for everyone in a relationship,” says psychologist and director of Personal Enrichment Services Dan Martin.
Worryingly, only 40.9 per cent of participants were able to accurately identify how their partner felt about their relationship, which experts say is a leading cause of many relationship problems.
“How a person answers a question about their relationship or about their spouse can say a lot,” explains psychotherapist and relationship coach Melissa Ferrari.
“Sometimes it’s not even in the words that are said, it can be more in the way a person answers a question with spontaneity, enthusiasm and ease that can say a lot about their relationship or their partner and the quality of their relationship.”
The study researchers warned that according to “bargaining theory”, misjudging your spouse’s emotions could actually lead you to bargain “too hard” and unknowingly cause a break up.
Let us explain.
"If I believe my wife is really happy in the marriage, I might push her to do more chores or contribute a larger portion of the family income," explains study researcher Professor Stern.
"If, unbeknownst to me, she's actually just lukewarm about the marriage, or she's got a really good-looking guy who is interested in her, she may decide those demands are the last straw, and decide a divorce would be a better option for her.
"In this scenario, pushing a bargain too hard, based on misperception of a partner's happiness, will result in a divorce that wouldn't otherwise have occurred," he says.
Because of this, study co-research professor Friedberg stressed how important it was to pick your battles.
"This data shows that people aren't being as tough negotiators as they could be, and then we realised that we needed to include caring in the model for it to make sense," she says.
"The idea of love here is that you get some happiness from your spouse simply being happy. For instance, I might agree to do more house chores, which reduces my personal happiness somewhat, but I get some offsetting happiness simply knowing that my partner benefits."
However Martin says that it's a combination of both love and being emotionally intelligent and aware that contributes to a healthy relationship.
"I've seen couples in this situation who were very good at the business of parenting, i.e communication, cooperation and collaborating, but lack the intimate 'love' portion of the relationship they used to have," he explains.
"On the other side of that coin I've seen couples who come into therapy stating they are in love but really struggle with the maintenance and investment needed for a fulfilling relationship.
While Ferrari agrees that this two question method is a good indicator of a relationship's health, she also points to other signs of a successful and healthy relationship.
"Feeling safe and secure, having mutual respect, some idealisation (meaning that you must think the person is pretty special as well as moral and ethical), a desire to make the other person happy and protect them," she says. (Post continues after gallery.)
Martin also believes that happiness is an essential ingredient in an enriching and fulfilling relationship, especially when considering that a relationship matures over time.
"The heart pounding, sweaty palm infatuation that comes in the early states of a relationship slowly yields to a more mature variety of love that is based more on happiness together, companionship, communication, shared interests and values," he explains.
"This sort of foundation allows you to gracefully share the joy and pain the comes with a lifetime together."
Do you think these questions can indicate a successful marriage or not?