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The Surprising Key to Having a Happy Marriage

Part of this job is searching for the best of the best articles, videos and podcasts. When looking for love advice, you find a lot of things repeated. Don’t go to bed angry. Have a date night. Buy flowers, etc. Which is great advice, but according to New York Magazine, “New neurological research suggests there’s a crucial marital skill you might never of thought of.”

In this video from the magazine's Science of Us animation project, we learn that always paying attention when your partner is happy is the key to a successful marriage. Scientists at the University of Toronto gathered a group of women who have been married to their spouses for an average of 40 years. They told the women they would be watching a video of someone having a particular emotional experience and scanned the women’s brains as they watched.

The video clips showed either their husbands or a stranger showing an emotion that didn’t match the emotion the women were told the video would contain. For example, if the women were told the speaker would be talking about a sad memory, the video would show either a stranger or their husband smiling. “There was more overall brain activity when they saw their husbands than with the stranger.” Activity specifically in the part of the brain thought to control empathy.

The women were paying careful attention to their husband’s happiness. They were expecting one emotion but when their partner appeared happy, they went with it. If you’ve had a terrible, no good-day but your partner comes home brimming with excitement over his or her day, you can see that and know not to launch into your terrible day.

The video sums up what that means for us: “One of the keys to a long-lasting relationship may be simply the ability to notice when your partner is elated, even if you’re not feeling particularly happy at the moment. But hey, flowers don’t hurt either.” Very true.

Bonus info: To read more about The University of Toronto study, check out NY Mag’s more detailed coverage here.