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5 science-backed secrets to a successful marriage

Business Insider | Apr 13, 2019, 03.25AM IST

couple kiss

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A couple kisses in New York City.

There's no perfect formula for a happy relationship, but science has gotten pretty close.

Through surveying and studying couples' interactions and habits, psychologists have found that successful relationships have a lot in common.

Here are five science-backed secrets to a successful marriage.

The happiest couples have sex once a week

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Happy couples tend to have sex once a week.

The Society for Personality and Social Psychology surveyed 30,000 Americans over four decades and found that couples who have sex once a week report being the happiest. They determined that the more sex a couple has, the happier they are, but only up to a frequency of once a week - having sex more than once a week did not indicate a higher level of happiness.

"Although more frequent sex is associated with greater happiness, this link was no longer significant at a frequency of more than once a week," lead researcher Amy Muise said in a press release. "Our findings suggest that it's important to maintain an intimate connection with your partner, but you don't need to have sex every day as long as you're maintaining that connection."

Couples that drink together stay together

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Couples with similar drinking habits are happier.

A study published in Journals of Gerontology B: Psychological Sciences showed that couples with matching drinking habits are happier than couples whose drinking habits differ. The study involved 4,864 married participants.

One explanation for this could be that by drinking or doing other activities, a couple is spending more quality time together.

The less materialistic a couple is, the more satisfied they'll be

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It's the little things that really matter.

A study surveying 1,310 married individuals and published in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues found that materialism (defined as placing high value on money and possessions) is associated with lower marital satisfaction.

Business Insider also previously reported that money is one of the main reasons couples seek counseling and a leading cause of divorce.

When couples are able to focus less on the pursuit of wealth and material possessions and more on each other, their relationship benefits.

How couples start tough conversations can determine the success of their relationships

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Couples that have tough conversations can weather any storm.

Psychological researcher John Gottman invited 130 newlywed couples to fill out questionnaires and then discuss a disagreement in their relationship for 15 minutes.

He found that couples that started out with less negative affects in the first few minutes and were able to deescalate negativity were more likely to stay together. Conversely, all 17 couples that later divorced began their conversations with what he called a "harsh startup" - more displays of negative emotions and less positive affects.

He also singled out four kinds of negativity as "The Four Horsemen" that can wreck havoc in a relationship: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling (withdrawing and shutting down).

If a couple approaches arguments or tough conversations with empathy and kindness from the start, it's a sign that their marriage is built to last.

Read more: This man has studied relationships for 40 years and claims he can determine the success of a marriage in 15 minutes - here's how

Enthusiastically supporting each other builds positive relationships

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Celebrating each other's accomplishments builds connection.

Offering enthusiastic support and interest in each other's accomplishments is a crucial method of connection.

In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, psychology professor Shelly Gable categorized four possible responses to good news that couples display: active constructive (enthusiastic, supportive, interested), passive constructive (relatively positive but little to no interest), passive destructive (no interest and changes the subject), and active destructive (disparaging or downplaying the news).

Active constructive responses to good news meet partners' emotional needs and foster positive emotional experiences - in other words, the glue that holds relationships together.

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