If couples were paying any attention during the past few decades, they should be able to recite the one critical ingredient for a healthy relationship — communication. But the latest study shows that other skills may be almost as important for keeping couples happy.
While expressing your needs and feelings in a positive way to your significant other is a good foundation for resolving conflicts and building a healthy relationship, these skills may not be as strong a predictor of couples’ happiness as experts once thought.
In an Internet-based study involving 2,201 participants referred by couples counselors, scientists decided to test, head to head, seven “relationship competencies” that previous researchers and marital therapists found to be important in promoting happiness in romantic relationships. The idea was to rank the skills in order of importance to start building data on which aspects of relationships are most important to keeping them healthy. In addition to communication and conflict resolution, the researchers tested for sex or romance, stress management, life skills, knowledge of partners and self-management to see which ones were the best predictors of relationship satisfaction. Couples were asked questions that tested their competency in all of these areas and then queried about how satisfied they were with their relationships. The researchers correlated each partner’s strengths and weaknesses in each area with the person’ relationship satisfaction.