Sex & Relationships

Studies Show That The Key to a Successful Relationship is Generosity

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What you need from a relationship in order for it to last is different from person to person. Some of us value trust and honesty above all else, while others think it’s most important to be with someone who makes them laugh. But as it turns out, one of the most important qualities that you and your S/O should have for your relationship to be successful isn’t any of those things — it’s generosity. And the more we think about it, the more this totally makes sense.

“Turning Towards” Your Partner

According to what psychologist Julie Gottman told The Atlantic, studies that she and her husband, John, have conducted have led them to discover that couples who spend time “turning toward” each other — or giving them attention when it’s requested, however small that request might be — is one of the biggest factors that determines whether or not that couple will end up together in the long run, and a big part of that is opening yourself up and being generous, both with your time and in every part of your shared life with that person.

“If your partner expresses a need, and you are tired, stressed, or distracted, then the generous spirit comes in when a partner makes a bid, and you still turn toward your partner,” Gottman said.

Small Acts of Kindness Could Make Or Break Your Relationship

Another study, conducted by researchers at Utah State University and the University of Virginia for the Journal of Marriage and Family, revealed that generosity is linked to happier, longer marriages, and a lack of generosity can increase the likelihood of divorce. In the case of this study, generosity refers to “small acts of kindness, displays of respect and affection, and a willingness to forgive one’s spouse his or her faults or failings” — and honestly, isn’t that what we all need out of a relationship at the most basic level? That study might have been all about married couples, but being more generous is actually going to benefit you no matter what kind of relationship you’re in — even if you’re just talking about your friends and family.

Generosity can be a learned skill

If you find that this is your weak spot, there are a few things you can do to get better at being more generous. Marriage and family therapist Linda Carroll offered up a few suggestions in an article for MBG RelationshipsCarroll said that by teaching yourself to forgive more quickly and hold fewer grudges, you can get on that path much faster, and to remind yourself to always give your S/O the benefit of the doubt. One of the most powerful suggestions she offered? Paying attention to how good it makes you feel when you’re generous — and how happy you’re making the other person. You’ll want to feel that good again, so it’ll probably lead to even more generosity on your part.

Of course, we’re all human — nobody can be generous in all things all day every day, and there are going to be parts of your life where you want to (or even should) be more selfish, especially where giving too much of yourself could make you feel resentful of your partner. But practicing the act of being more generous in your relationship in general will lead to very good things, and that goes double if you’re trying to build a relationship that could eventually lead to marriage or something long term.

Be generous, even when you’re angry or frustrated

When you’re taking this kind of attitude toward your S/O, even when things are hard and you’re both in a bad mood where all you want to do is snipe at each other for no particular reason, you might discover that reminding yourself to be a little more generous in whatever the situation is could end up fixing the issue at hand. Assuming there are no massive, glaring issues in your relationship, a lot of fights can disappear when you’re willing to keep the lines of communication open and remind yourself to be kind (or, at the very least, respectful), even if you’re mad or frustrated.

When you’re with someone for the long haul, you really want to feel like you’re respected and that you matter to your partner, and your S/O wants to feel the same. By making sure you’re validating them and their feelings, giving your affection and attention freely, and showing them kindness as much as humanly possible, you might end up having the most fulfilling relationship ever.

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