According to a recent study, 90 percent of married people are less happy with their partner five years into a marriage than they were when they were married. As the time together increases past five years, the number of happy people further decreases. However, there are some couples that remain happy with one another or even become happier as time goes on. While there is a lot of hard work put into making those relationships successful, there also a significant amount of play, a factor that is pretty important too.
Happiness is a hot topic for behavioral scientists as of late, and there is an influx of new research on the matter. Some of this research concluded that individually, the things that make us happiest are (in order of importance) love, gratitude, curiosity, and zest. Love refers to deep meaningful relationships. Gratitude is recognizing the positive and good things that surround us. Curiosity is in regards to being curious about things in the world and pursuing those interests. Zest is being excited and involved in your world.
A different study measured happiness of couples and what makes for lasting happiness in long-term relationships. Perhaps unsurprisingly, its results are in line with that of the individual study’s. The two factors that make couples happy are getting excited and involved in each other’s successes and making life together exciting. Love, curiosity, zest all relate very closely. Gratitude might even fit in the first criteria. One researcher set up an experiment protocol that measured people’s perceived happiness with their partner before and after completing a novel, physical challenge together. Ratings of admiration for and happiness with partners were significantly higher after the challenge.
Dr. Art Aron, a scientist who conducted that experiment and studies novelty in relationships, comments on his findings,
“We think the process is basically one of association. That when you do something novel and challenging, it creates an exhilaration, an excitement in your life. If that’s done with a partner as a team, then that novelty and challenge is associated with the relationship.”
This is fantastic news. Because while I love an occasional cuddle on the couch, sitting still has never been my strong suit. I’d almost always rather be going somewhere or doing something. Whether taking a hike, traveling across Europe, remodeling a house, or playing indoor soccer, when we have adventures with our partners, we’re building happiness in our relationships and for ourselves. Plus, our knights get to knock the rust off their shining coats of armor and remind us why we admire them so much. More memories, more laughter, more excitement, more activity. What’s not to love?
So in the rush of our busy lives, we must make a point to break out of the mundane comfort of routine to pursue the things that make us excited with the one who puts us most at ease. We must live a life that challenges us to be our best, pushes us through our comfort zones, and, ultimately, keeps us enthralled in the time we have together.