People may throw around the words "commitment," "faithfulness," "perseverance," and "compatibility" when it comes to discussing what makes a happy marriage, but according to an article in the New York Times, the most satisfying marriages occur between spouses who help each other become more interesting people. 8 Principles of a Happy Marriage
In her piece titled "The Happy Marriage is the 'Me' Marriage," Tara Parker-Pope argues that since people view modern marriages as emotional and intellectual partnerships, it's not enough to marry someone for security or social status. Nor is it enough to simply stay married. People want to enjoy themselves and to grow in the relationship, which means marrying someone who will help you grow as an individual. So much for putting your relationship first, right? 8 Relationship Tricks Happy Couples Use
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While using marriage as a means of self-growth sounds a bit selfish, researchers from Monmouth University in New Jersey say that the more knowledge and experiences people garner from their spouses, the more happily committed they are in the relationship. In other words, commitment for the sake of commitment is less sustainable than commitment that occurs because your spouse isn't a total bore. Think of it in terms of athletics. If you initially hated exercise, but began running because your spouse loves it, that could lead to running a city marathon together, which in turn acts as a bonding experience. You have a new story to tell, new respect for your spouse's interests, and hopefully an increased emotional investment into the marriage because it developed a side of you that didn't exist prior to the relationship. 11 Romantic Ways to Lose Weight as a Couple
Dr. Gary W. Lewandowski, who monitored the research done at Monmouth University, says that "self-expansion," or the accumulation of knowledge and experience, is paramount to a meaningful relationship. To test its role in marriages, he asked couples how being with each other helped them learn new things, and how much knowing their spouse made them a better person.
"If you're seeking self-growth and obtain it from your partner, then that puts your partner in a pretty important position," Lewandowski said. "And being able to help your partner's self-expansion would be pretty pleasing to yourself."
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The bottom line is, prioritizing your intellectual and emotional needs isn't selfish in the way that being unfaithful because you're no longer attracted to your spouse is. Rather, seeing your partner as someone you can learn from contributes to his own self-expansion, which keeps the relationship from growing stagnant over time.
"People have a fundamental motivation to improve the self and add to who they are as a person," Dr. Lewandowski says. "If your partner is helping you become a better person, you become happier and more satisfied in the relationship."