There’s a lot of evidence from research over the past 20 years that supports the conclusion that engaging in one key principle will do more to enhance a marriage relationship than anything else. And it’s not hard. But if your marriage is to thrive, this is a principle you must embrace. It is the key to everything.
Recent work by researchers in New Zealand has identified the key: shared activities.
Couples must engage in new and fun activities with the other person in mind. Across two studies of more than 350 people in long-term marriages, the researchers found that spending time doing “shared relationship activities” is associated with more satisfaction and happiness, and less stress, than anything.
These activities might include taking trips, exercising, going out, and engaging in joint hobbies.
Perhaps most importantly, the research demonstrates that positive effects from these shared activities are greatest when couples purposefully engage in prioritizing doing things together, not just doing them.
Having one partner tag along when the other is doing something he or she finds interesting is less beneficial. In fact, dragging your partner to do things that only interest you can backfire by causing stress in the relationship.
In short, shared activities are a great way to bring partners together and make their relationship more satisfying, as long as both partners are on the same page and think of those activities as a good way to spend time together. But if that activity only meets one partner’s goals, it probably does more harm than good.
About the Author
Benjamin Le is author of Science of Relationships.