What makes for a happy marriage? According a new New York Times story, it’s a union that is intellectually and emotionally “sustainable,” unlike past notions of marriage, which put importance on making the pairing last at all costs — even the happiness of the spouses. Writer Tara Parker-Pope reports:
…in modern relationships, people are looking for a partnership, and they want partners who make their lives more interesting.
Caryl Rusbult, a researcher at Vrije University in Amsterdam who died last January, called it the “Michelangelo effect,” referring to the manner in which close partners “sculpt” each other in ways that help each of them attain valued goals.
Other researchers have pointed to something they call “self-expansion,” which means using one’s partner to accumulate knowledge and experiences. In other words, if your spouse turns you on to new things, you’re more likely to report being satisfied with your marriage. Even small novel interactions, like talking about a new restaurant or meeting new friends, can contribute to personal growth.
It’s kind of ironic, then, that people tend to think of marriage as “settling down” or a source of stability when what we really want is a person who will make our life more exciting.
Take the Times‘s quiz to see how much your relationship is contributing to your personal growth.