Five Keys to Keep Your Valentine's Heart02/14/13
THURSDAY, Feb. 14 (HealthDay News) -- If you're hoping that a
bouquet of flowers or a heart-shaped box of chocolates might give
your relationship a boost this Valentine's Day, you might be
A new study suggests that a good relationship depends on daily
maintenance: building trust and a common bond between the two of
There are a handful of relatively simple things people can do to
make a love relationship more mutually satisfying. Researchers
distilled years of relationship studies to identify five strategies
that help predict positive relationships: openness, positivity,
assurances, shared tasks and a common social network.
These approaches should be part of every partner's toolkit for
relationship enhancement, said study author Brian Ogolsky, an
assistant professor in the human and community development
department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "The
data certainly suggest that people [in successful relationships] do
these things in relatively high frequency."
The study also shows that both partners typically want to feel
that the other person is making an effort to help ensure the
relationship's success. "The thing about maintenance is that you
don't always notice when it's happening, but you do notice when
it's not being done," Ogolsky said.
The following define the five consistent factors of a good
- Openness: talking about feelings and encouraging your partner
to do the same
- Positivity: acting upbeat and cheerful in your daily
interactions with each other
- Assurance: doing things that show you'll be there for the other
person and are committed to the relationship
- Shared tasks: dividing household chores and responsibilities
- Shared social network: including your partner's family and
friends in your activities from time to time
Different stages of a relationship may dictate which of the
strategies needs more emphasis, Ogolsky said. "Early on in
relationships, people are very hungry for information, wondering
'Is this person into me?' and needing more assurance. Over time and
with more commitment, that switches to more of an interest in
maintaining the relationship like an investment," he explained.
Ogolsky said there has been a lot of focus in relationship
research and the media on the more problematic issues in
relationships -- such as the rising divorce rate -- but he was
particularly interested in looking at the other side of the
equation: what facilitates a healthy relationship.
The research team analyzed 35 studies that included more than
12,000 participants, identifying key terms related to successful
relationships. They gave more weight in the total analysis to the
research with the greatest number of participants, and focused on
factors that were tied to certain behaviors in the relationship.
The study appeared recently in the
Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.
One expert had concerns about the research. Lara Kammrath, an
assistant professor of psychology at Wake Forest University, in
Winston-Salem, N.C., pointed out that the study only showed
correlations. "So, it could totally be the case that people who are
happy in their relationships do these things, but it doesn't mean
doing these things makes your relationship better," she said.
Yet Kammrath noted that correlational studies can be useful in
helping people diagnose their own relationships. "If these aren't
happening, it probably means your relationship is pretty
distressed," she said. "You might want to start trying them."
Kammrath said it would be interesting to know whether these five
relationship strategies feel like work to people. "In a really
great relationship, it doesn't feel like effort at all, but is just
rewarding and satisfying," she said. "When you're in a good
relationship, there's actually no effort involved; you do these
things even when you're really tired."
As for Valentine's Day, Kammrath said presents of any kind turn
out to be the least important factor in relationship satisfaction.
"Instead, being verbally affectionate, sharing your thoughts,
giving your time -- these turn out to be more valued than
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