Why they’re worth the compromise and work.
Marriage seems to go along with better health: lower blood pressure, lower stress, less depression, and higher satisfaction with life. But not surprisingly, the quality of your relationship counts, too. Single people do better than people who are unhappily married, according to some research. What can you reasonably expect from a good marriage? Psychology research has a few answers.
Don’t assume you must be intensely in love, even in the early days. According to Arthur Aron, a noted researcher about love, there’s no evidence of soulmates. Instead, we fall in love when we find someone who is “good enough” and reciprocates our interest. If you see a new partner as an opportunity to expand — maybe through a bigger social circle, new activities, or broader sense of who you are — you are likely to fall in love. In the long run, the early romance won’t decide if you’ll thrive as a pair. What counts is how you communicate. “How happy you are at the start of a marriage depends on both people’s mental health. But the rate of change depends on communication skills,” he says. “The happy couple’s happiness can deteriorate quickly, while people who may start off less happy will get happier if the couple practice good skills.”
If you do communicate well, you can reap many benefits from a committed relationship. Alice Boyes, author of “The Anxiety Toolkit,” points to five.
- You'll pick up your partner’s positive perceptions about you. Maybe you think you’re not especially bright because you did badly at school, but your spouse appreciates your sharp memory and accurate assessments of people. Over time, you’re likely to value your own abilities somewhat more.
- You may adopt better health habits. If your husband doesn’t eat candy, you may lose the habit too. We tend to echo those around us, if we admire them. Men are most likely to benefit from a wife who takes an interest in his health, studies show.
- You’ll feel more secure. Knowing your partner will take care of you if you have a crisis can help calm worriers. You may also be able to try new things or take risks, knowing you’ll have a “soft place to fall.” Some people are afraid that they’re not lovable. Aron argues that they’ll feel less anxious with a stable partner. “Find a person who is secure and you will get more secure,” he says.
- You can savor shared memories. Remembering the good times is a key strategy for happiness, and it’s natural to do so when you’re in the same company. In a happy couple, you’ll reminisce about a vacation or a baby’s first step.
- You’ll learn each other’s mental biases and can correct them when they pop up. Let’s say your husband always assumes the worst. You can stop him with a joke. Maybe you rush into decisions. He can slow you down. People tend to resist correction. But when your present and future are intertwined, you know your partner has every reason to help you flourish and are more likely to listen to advice or learn to think a little differently.