What are the most important qualities for creating a satisfying marriage?
When identifying preferred traits in a marriage partner, most American women say they want a spouse who has a steady job. Most American men say they want a spouse who shares similar ideas about having and raising children. This is according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. The same survey revealed that many people who had not married but wanted to marry someday, remained single because they had not found a spouse with the right qualities.
But research on the factors that produce a loving and lasting marriage reveal two values more important than what men and women say they want in a potential spouse. These values are commitment and sacrifice. This is a common finding in studies of long-term marriages.
Marriages Thrive on Commitment and Sacrifice
Studies such as the one conducted at the University of California-Los Angeles’ Relationship Institute demonstrate that committed couples are more likely to have lasting and happy marriages after ten years together. Research psychologists Dominik Schoebi, Benjamin Karney and Thomas Bradbury found this most common among couples where both spouses were willing to make sacrifices for the relationship.
The power of commitment and sacrifice in a relationship between husband and wife is best demonstrated in a marriage where the spouses did not choose each other. Consider arranged marriages where the potential mates are given the option to accept or reject an engagement brokered by their parents or guardians. Arranged marriages like these remain a common practice in South Asia and the Middle East. The tradition dates back thousands of years.
Western culture idealizes romantic relationships, where fate or providence brings men and women together to fall in love, marry and live happily ever after. Like others most familiar with this approach to marriage, commitment and sacrifice might seem like easier pills to swallow. I have sometimes wondered whether couples who did not choose each other can be happy together.
How Important is Romance to a Happy Marriage?
India is one South Asian nation where arranged marriages still occur frequently. When moving to the United States, many Indian immigrants bring this aspect of their culture with them, while others follow the Western custom of dating and courtship. This has provided an opportunity for researchers to compare outcomes of arranged marriages and those resulting from romantic interest.
One study of relationship outcomes for Indian-American couples, published in Psychological Reports, revealed a surprising similarity between couples in arranged marriages and couples who chose each other. The ratios of couples who were unhappy and those who had high levels of love, satisfaction, and commitment were the same in both groups. Other studies have produced similar findings.
In the Journal of Comparative Family Studies, researcher Robert Epstein and his colleagues examined a cross-cultural collection of arranged marriages. In couples who averaged almost 20 years together, study participants attributed the increase of love in their marriage to mutual commitment and sacrifice more than any other factors. This discovery aligns with the research on romantically-matched couples.
The Foundation of a Satisfying Relationship
When both spouses are committed to their relationship, they lay a foundation of mutual trust. This provides fertile ground for a thriving relationship. In marriage, mutual trust depends on a mutual commitment to do what’s necessary to make the relationship satisfying for both partners. All marriages have ups and downs. All marriages have conflict and irreconcilable differences. Getting through a relationship’s dark valleys and experiencing the joys of standing on a mountain summit depends on a couple’s commitment to stick together when the journey is difficult.
Spouses who sacrifice for the sake of their relationship demonstrate true love. They show generosity toward each other that unhappy couples lack. They understand that the best gift is one that costs something of value in order to give it. Spouses who sacrifice for the sake of their relationship are experts at satisfying each other, rather than satisfying themselves.
Couples who recognize the value of commitment and sacrifice have found the key ingredients needed to grow in mutual love and thrive in marital satisfaction.
2 Things Every Couple Needs for a Satisfying #Marriage