TIME Love & Relationships

Why Women Are More Likely to Ask for a Divorce

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A new study suggests women are more likely than men to initiate a divorce in opposite sex relationships, but the same isn't true for non-marital relationships. If men and women were living together without marrying, each gender was equally likely to initiate a breakup

In a presentation to the American Sociological Association, researchers report that women are more likely than men to ask for divorce. But non-marital breakups are more gender neutral.

The results came from an analysis of the aptly named “How Couples Meet and Stay Together” survey, collected from 2,262 adults with opposite sex partners who answered questions about their relationship status between 2009 and 2015. Women initiated 69% of divorces, compared to 31% of men. But if men and women were living together without marrying, each gender was equally likely to initiate a breakup.

Almost all studies to date have shown that women are more likely to ask for divorce, the study’s lead author, Michael Rosenfeld, said in a statement. An associate professor of sociology at Stanford University, Rosenfeld said that social scientists assumed that women’s heightened sensitivities to the ups and downs of relationships would mean they were more likely to leave both marriages and non-marital unions.

But the latest data suggests that perhaps there’s more involved. Women may be responding to the still arcane conventions of spousal roles, which contrast with growing equality in other institutions, such as the workplace. “I think that marriage as an institution has been a little bit slow to catch up with expectations for gender equality. Wives still take their husbands’ surnames, and are sometimes pressured to do so. Husbands still expect their wives to do the bulk of the housework and the bulk of the childcare,” he said in the statement. “On the other hand, I think that non-marital relationships lack the historical baggage and expectations of marriage, which makes the non-marital relationships more flexible and therefore more adaptable to modern expectations … of gender equality.”

TIME psychology

5 Shortcuts To Bonding Deeply With a Romantic Partner

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

How do you get to crazy love — or get crazy love back when it’s gone away?

Forget the silly relationship books, let’s look at the real science and get some answers.

Here are 5 shortcuts to bonding deeply with a romantic partner:

1) No More Boring Date Nights

No more dull dinners telling the same stories and hoping you have fun.

What’s at the root of seduction? Surprise. From my interview with Robert Greene, author of the bestseller, The Art of Seduction:

Seduction involves a degree of surprise, which is generally the first thing that disappears after you’ve been in a relationship, and why there’s no more seducing that goes on. Everything is familiar and you’re no longer surprised by the other person.

Couples don’t need more “pleasant” activities — you need more exciting activities to make sure you’re feeling the “butterflies” around each other.

Researchers did a 10-week study comparing couples that engaged in “pleasant” activities vs “exciting” activities. Pleasant lost.

Via For Better: How the Surprising Science of Happy Couples Can Help Your Marriage Succeed:

Those who had undertaken the “exciting” date nights showed a significantly greater increase in marital satisfaction than the “pleasant” date night group…

Why would doing anything exciting have such a big effect on a relationship?

Because research shows we’re lousy about realizing where our feelings are coming from.

Excitement from any source will be associated with the person you’re with, even if they’re not the cause of it.

When I spoke to the top researcher of romantic love, Arthur Aron, he said the same thing:

After a while, things are sort of settled and there isn’t much excitement, so what can you do? Do things that are exciting that you associate with your partner. Reinvigorate that excitement and the main way to make them associated with the partner is to do them with your partner.

So no boring, lame date nights. Go dancing together or anything else you can both participate in as a couple. No documentaries — research says you should go see horror movies or suspense thrillers.

(To learn the 4 most common relationship problems — and how to fix them — click here.)

Okay, no more dull dinners. You’re taking tango lessons or going skydiving. Awesome. So how do you fix the nagging little problems in your relationship to take it to the next level? That’s easy… Don’t.

2) Don’t Reduce the Negative. Increase the Positive.

We spend a lot of time trying to fix things in our relationships. Turns out we’ve got it backwards. Unless they’re critical, don’t focus on reducing the negatives. Couples thrive when they increase the positive things.

Via The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work:

…an interesting new body of research suggests that how we support people during good times, more than bad times, affects the quality of a relationship.

Research shows trying to change people doesn’t work:

…when participants (N = 160) focused their relationship improvement attempts on changing the partner, individuals reported more negative improvement strategies, lower improvement success, and, in turn, more negative relationship evaluations… results suggest that targeting the partner may do more harm than good despite that relationship evaluations pivot on whether the partner produces change.

John Gottman, the #1 guy on making relationships work, says 69% of a couple’s problems are perpetual. These problems don’t go away yet many couples keep arguing about them year after year.

Via The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work:

Most marital arguments cannot be resolved. Couples spend year after year trying to change each other’s mind – but it can’t be done. This is because most of their disagreements are rooted in fundamental differences of lifestyle, personality, or values. By fighting over these differences, all they succeed in doing is wasting their time and harming their marriage.

So ignore the bad. Increase the good stuff.

(To learn the four things that kill relationships, click here.)

So you’re not trying to fix what’s broken, you’re doubling down on the things that make you two happy. What else do you need to do?

3) Get To Know Them. Really Get To Know Them

Couples who communicate are 62% more likely to describe their relationship as happy.

Via 100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships:

In studies of marriages of various lengths, couples with a high degree of intimacy between the husband and wife—that is, couples who shared their innermost thoughts—were 62 percent more likely to describe their marriage as happy. – Pallen 2001

Emotional, personal information exchange promotes powerful feelings of connection. Asking and answering the right questions can create a lifelong bond in just one hour.

Via Sam Gosling’s book, Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You:

Arthur Aron, a psychologist at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, is interested in how people form romantic relationships, and he’s come up with an ingenious way of taking men and women who have never met before and making them feel close to one another. Given that he has just an hour or so to create the intimacy levels that typically take weeks, months, or years to form, he accelerated the getting-to-know-you process through a set of thirty-six questions crafted to take the participants rapidly from level one in McAdams’s system to level two.

What happened in Arthur Aron’s lab when he had grad students ask each other these personal questions? Well, two of them ended up getting married.

No time for tons of questions? Share the best event of your day and have your partner share the best event of their day. And celebrate their successes. It works.

Here’s what Arthur told me in our interview:

Celebrating your partner’s successes turns out to be pretty important. When things go badly and you provide support, it doesn’t make the relationship good, but it keeps it from getting bad. Whereas if things are going okay and your partner has something good happen and you celebrate it sincerely, you’re doing something that can make a relationship even better.

But it’s not all talk. Research shows touching is powerful too. (Want something really powerful? Touch their face.)

And look into their eyes. It can make people fall in love. Seriously:

In two studies, subjects induced to exchange mutual unbroken gaze for 2 min with a stranger of the opposite sex reported increased feelings of passionate love for each other.

(For that list of questions that made people bond deeply in just an hour, click here.)

So you’re doing exciting stuff, focusing on the good things and really getting to know each other. What else should you spend time talking about?

4) Reminisce About the Times You Laughed

You don’t need to be together very long to do this. What made you two crack up on those initial dates? Bring it up and have another laugh about it:

…couples who reminisced about events involving shared laugher reported higher relationship satisfaction at the post-manipulation satisfaction assessment as compared to couples in the three control conditions. The effect was not attributed to positive mood induction as mood scores across groups were similar.

And here’s a bonus: more laughing means less fighting.

Via 100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships:

When both partners in a relationship thought the other had a good sense of humor, 67 percent less conflict was reported than in couples where neither thought the other had a good sense of humor. – De Koning and Weiss 2002

The other thing to emphasize when reminiscing? Similarity. The single strongest predictor of marital well-being? Feeling the two of you are similar.

Believe it or not, even having similar fighting styles was a good thing. It was related to double-digit drops in conflict and a double-digit increase in satisfaction.

Via 100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships:

While people may employ many different conflict resolution strategies in a relationship, when both partners use the same strategy they experience 12 percent less conflict and are 31 percent more likely to report their relationship is satisfying. – Pape 2001

(To learn the recipe for a happy marriage, click here.)

Okay, so you two are laughing. What’s the right perspective to take when you’re out together?

5) Pretend You’re on Your First Date Again

On first dates we make an effort and effort draws people together:

In a follow-up study the researchers told participants to make an effort with their partners and then their enjoyment of the social interaction improved in line with their predictions. This suggests we can all have more fun with our partners and friends if we make an effort.

Studies show pretending time with a romantic partner was a first date makes it more enjoyable:

Across a series of studies, participants underestimated how good they would feel in situations that required them to put their best face forward… participants who were instructed to engage in self-presentation felt happier after interacting with their romantic partner than participants who were not given this instruction…

(To learn how to be a good kisser, click here.)

We’ve learned a lot. Let’s round it up and learn one more killer thing that can actually build a positive feedback loop in your relationship…

Sum Up

To bond more deeply with a romantic partner make sure to:

  • Kill the boring dates. Do new exciting stuff. Dancing, suspenseful movies, learning new things together.
  • Don’t fix the negatives. Build on the positives. You can’t fix most problems. Double down on what works well.
  • Really get to know them. Use Arthur Aron’s questions. And ask about the best part of their day, celebrate it, and share the high point of your day. Touch. Stare into their eyes.
  • Reminisce about the times you laughed. Emphasize similarity.
  • Pretend you’re on your first date again. Make an effort. Put your best face forward.

Want to diagnose how well your relationship is working?

Listen to the story you and your partner tell others about your relationship. John Gottman said it’s the #1 predictor of whether things are working.

Another trick is to hold their hand during stressful times and see how it makes you feel. Less stressed? Bingo.

The sad thing is that over time we often take the other person for granted. But you don’t have to.

By expressing gratitude, research shows you can actually create a positive feedback loop in your relationship:

…gratitude contributes to a reciprocal process of relationship maintenance, whereby each partner’s maintenance behaviors, perceptions of responsiveness, and feelings of gratitude feed back on and influence the other’s behaviors, perceptions, and feelings.

If you’ve got something good together, being grateful can make it even better.

Right now, share this post with your partner and tell them, “Thank you.”

Isn’t that what we all want to hear?

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME Marriage

Your Spouse Is Likelier to Cheat if They Are Financially Dependent on You, Study Finds

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"People like feeling relatively equal in their relationships"

A new study published in the June issue of the American Sociological Review found both men and women are more likely to cheat on their spouse when they become financially dependent on their significant other.

By analyzing data from 2,750 couples between the ages of 18 to 32 years old, study author Christin Munsch found that there was a 5% chance that women financially dependent on their spouse would cheat at any given time, and a 15% chance that men in a similar position of dependency would stray.

When the household financial contribution evened out between the spouses, however, the odds of committing adultery decreased.

“You would think that people would not want to ‘bite the hand that feeds them’ so to speak, but that is not what my research shows. Instead, the findings indicate people like feeling relatively equal in their relationships. People don’t like to feel dependent on another person,” said Munsch, whose work was reported on in Science Daily.

The research also found that when men begin to earn 70% or more of a household income, they once again are more likely to be unfaithful. “These men are aware that their wives are truly dependent and may think that, as a result, their wives will not leave them even if they cheat,” said Munsch.

On the flip side, because women who outearn their husbands challenge the status quo, Munsch says they are more likely to engage in what sociologists call “deviance-neutralizing behaviors,” and, in order to buoy their husband’s masculinity, may be less willing to have an extramarital romance.

The final surprise of the study was finding that financially dependent men are still more likely to cheat than their bread-winning counterparts.

TIME relationships

14 Signs You’re in a Healthy Relationship

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No, you don't necessarily need to have everything in common

Nick Hornby once said, “It’s no good pretending that any relationship has a future if your record collections disagree violently or if your favorite films wouldn’t even speak to each other if they met at a party.”

I’m not a therapist or relationship expert, but after nearly a decade of marriage, I’m not convinced that your taste in movies or music determines if you and your significant other are destined for happily-ever-after or a bad break-up. My marriage isn’t perfect, but it’s satisfying and happy and it’s taught me a few things about what keeps long-term partnerships working. Thankfully, those things have nothing to do with musical preferences or I would have taken my country albums and left my Beatles-loving husband long ago. Instead, we’ve figured out how to compromise on music, and other things, and settle in for the long haul.

Here are a few of those things that I’ve learned do seem to say something about the strength of your union:

You Speak Your Mind
Relationships thrive when couples can express themselves freely and honestly. That means no topic is off-limits, and you both feel heard. Consistent communication is vital to building a lasting life together.

You Have Your Own Space

Just because you’re in love doesn’t mean you have to spend every moment together. Taking time to pursue your own interests and friendships keeps your relationship fresh and gives you both the opportunity to grow as individuals—even while you’re growing as a couple.

You Fight
Disagreements are normal, so if you aren’t fighting, chances are you’re holding back. But when people in healthy relationships fight, they fight productively and fairly. That means avoiding name-calling or put-downs. It also means striving to understand your partner instead of trying to score points. And when you’re wrong? You apologize.

You Like Yourself And Your Partner

Chances are your relationship won’t suddenly get better if you win the lottery, have a baby, or move into your dream house. So don’t base your partnership on the hope that it will change. You recognize that neither of you is perfect, and you accept and value each other for who you are right now—not who you might become.

You Make Decisions Jointly
You don’t call all the shots. Neither does your partner. From what movie to see to how many children to have, you make decisions together and listen to each other’s concerns and desires. Sure, this may mean you see Transformers on Saturday night. But on Sunday night, it’s your turn.

You Find Joy
Healthy relationships are full of laughter and fun. This doesn’t mean you’re giddy every hour of the day—or that she doesn’t drive you up the wall sometimes—but it does mean that your life together is mostly happy in sometimes simple ways. (Making dinner, laughing at the same things, finishing each others’ sentences…)

You Find Balance
Sometimes your partner needs to work longer hours while you play chauffeur and chief cook. Or you must devote time to an elderly parent while your spouse tackles the chores. That’s life. What matters is that, in the long run, your trade-offs seem fair.

You Treat Each Other With Kindness
Nothing is more important than treating the person you love with care, consideration, empathy, and appreciation. If you find yourself showing more respect to people you hardly know than you show your partner, take a step back and revisit your priorities.

You Trust Each Other
Healthy relationships are built on trust and a commitment to communication without reservations or secrets. Want to know how much you trust each other now? Take this quiz from the University of California, Berkeley.

You Let Things Go
Your partner will annoy you. You will annoy him or her, too. You will say things you don’t mean. You will behave inconsiderately. The important thing is how you deal with all this. So he forgot to pick up milk for the second time? Tell him you’re disappointed, of course—then let it go.

You Are Intimate
Sex is an important part of healthy relationships, but it’s only one part, and it’s different than intimacy, which is less about physical satisfaction than about bonding, friendship, and familiarity. If you’re in a healthy relationship, you’ll feel connected—in and out of bed.

Your Relationship Is Your Safe Place
Your relationship should be a safety net—a stable place to come home to at the end of the day. That doesn’t mean you don’t fight—it just means that when things are hard, you’d rather see your partner than commiserate with coworkers at Happy Hour.

You Talk To Your Partner, Not To Other People
When you have issues and concerns, you share them with your partner, not your Facebook friends. You can use pals as a sounding board, of course, but not as a crutch to avoid hard conversations with your significant other.

You Say The Magic Words
“I love you”, “Thank you,” and “I’m sorry.”

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

More from Real Simple:

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TIME Sex/Relationships

10 Rules to Make Your Relationship Last

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'It’s always more work than you can possibly imagine. In my case, it was worth it.'

For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, what is it that makes a marriage last (and last)? To answer this age-old question, family sociologist Karl Pillemer, PhD, launched the largest in-depth survey of long-married couples ever conducted, interviewing 700 people who had been hitched an average of 43 years. Their sage advice is collected in his new book, 30 Lessons for Loving ($26, amazon.com).

Here, a few of our favorite practical relationship tips from husbands and wives who’ve discovered the true meaning of commitment.

Start the day with a small kindness

“When you wake up in the morning, think, What can I do to make his or her day just a little happier? The idea is you need to turn toward each other and focus on the other person, even just for that five minutes when you first wake up.”
—Antoinette Watkins*, 81

Remember that being close doesn’t mean you’re the same

“You have to be able to try—and sometimes this is very, very difficult—you have to try to understand what the other person is thinking in any given situation. The main thing is that everybody—including your partner—has their own ideas about their world. Even though you’re in a very intimate relationship, the other person is still another person.”
—Reuben Elliot, 72

HEALTH.COM: 10 Ways to Improve Your Relationship Instantly

Stop worrying about your wrinkles

“Somehow as you get older you kind of get blind to the infirmities that affect the other party. And you always see them the way they were. You don’t see aging. It’s a wonderful thing. I don’t know if the brain is wired for that, but that’s the way it is.”
—Alfredo Doyle, 77

Find your “fight number 17”

“This may sound like a flip thing, but it works for us. We came up with it at some point along the way: We call it jokingly ‘fight number 17.’ … It means we’ve had this one at least 16 times before. We’ve decided we don’t even bother to have it anymore. We see it coming and we just shut up and don’t even start with it. Because it’s not going to go anywhere. My theory is that in every marriage there is one of those issues.”
—Ralph Perkins

Nurture the friendship

“I think it’s hard when you’re young and hot on one another to back off and say, ‘Do I like what is behind these hands and these body parts?’ But that is the piece that doesn’t wear out, that grows and deepens. The sexual aspect deepens, too, in its own way, but it becomes less important and the friendship becomes more important as the years go by. It will be challenged by kids and hardships and losses of parents and changing interests and patterns, but an abiding friendship is at the base of a solid marriage.”
—Lydia Wade, 73

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Surround yourself with happy couples

“If you’re hanging around with negative people, find some positive people and hang around with them instead. You know, success imitates success. So if you see people who seem to have a very successful happy marriage, well, you hang around with those types of people. It does rub off. Avoid the ones with a defeatist attitude—get out of there before they drag you down.”
—Jeremy Bennett, 80

Repeat back to each other

“We realized early on that disagreements often came about when we weren’t really understanding where the other person was coming from. So I will say, ‘Are you saying….?’ Or ‘Do you mean…?’ Because sometimes we really are in the moment and we say things that we really don’t believe. So I always repeat back to him what I think he’s saying and then he’ll either say yes or he’ll say, ‘No, where’d you get that idea?’”
—Lucia Waters, 75

HEALTH.COM: 15 Everyday Habits to Boost Your Libido

Divvy up chores based on your strengths

“You just need to share at home…It needs to be cooperative. And here’s the way to do it: Whatever needs to be done, the person who can do it best is the one who should do it.”
—Dixie Becker, 84

Take breaks

“If conflict occurs, well, there is the Chinese saying, ‘Take a step back, and you can see the whole sky.’ Just step away, a little bit. Just step back and then you see other things.”
—Chen Xiu

Know that there’s always more to learn

“It seems to me that marriage is a process. You never get there; you’re always in process. It’s always more work than you can possibly imagine. In my case, it was worth it.”
—Samantha Jones, 80

HEALTH.COM: 20 Weird Facts About Sex and Love

*All of the participants’ names have been changed.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME psychology

The Shortcut to Bonding With a Romantic Partner on a Deeper Level

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

From Sam Gosling’s book, Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You:

Arthur Aron, a psychologist at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, is interested in how people form romantic relationships, and he’s come up with an ingenious way of taking men and women who have never met before and making them feel close to one another. Given that he has just an hour or so to create the intimacy levels that typically take week, months, or years to form, he accelerated the getting-to-know-you process through a set of thirty-six questions crafted to take the participants rapidly from level one in McAdams’s system to level two. The questions are part of an hour-long “sharing game” in which each member of a pair reads a question out loud and then they both answer it before moving on to the next question.

What are some of the questions?

1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?

2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?

3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?

4. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?

5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?

6. If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?

7. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.

8. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

9. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?

10. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?

11. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future, or anything else, what would you want to know?

12. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?

13. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?

14. What do you value most in a friendship?

15. What is your most treasured memory?

16. What is your most terrible memory?

17. What does friendship mean to you?

18. What roles do love and affection play in your life?

19. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?

20. Complete this sentence:”I wish I had someone with whom I could share…”

21. If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.

22. Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time saying things that you might not say to someone you’ve just met.

23. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.

24. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?

25. Tell your partner something that you like about them already.

26. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?

27. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?

Aron’s book is Handbook of Closeness and Intimacy.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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What 10 things should you do every day to improve your life?

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME psychology

5 Simple Things That Will Make Your Life Better

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

1) Want to be happy?

It’s more about perspective than anything else. Write down three good things that happen to you every day.

Via Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being:

Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep. Write down three things that went well today and why they went well. You may use a journal or your computer to write about the events, but it is important that you have a physical record of what you wrote. The three things need not be earthshaking in importance (“My husband picked up my favorite ice cream for dessert on the way home from work today”), but they can be important (“My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy”).

Next to each positive event, answer the question “Why did this happen?”

(More on happiness here: Things that are proven to make you happier.)

2) Want to be more creative?

Expose yourself to as many different perspectives as possible and get them crashing around in your head.

Via Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation:

The patterns are simple, but followed together, they make for a whole that is wiser than the sum of its parts. Go for a walk; cultivate hunches; write everything down, but keep your folders messy; embrace serendipity; make generative mistakes; take on multiple hobbies; frequent coffeehouses and other liquid networks; follow the links; let others build on your ideas; borrow, recycle, reinvent. Build a tangled bank.

(More on creativity here: The four principles that will lead you to breakthrough creativity.)

3) Want better friendships?

Stay in touch every two weeks and make sure that the good moments outnumber the bad.

Via The Ape in the Corner Office: How to Make Friends, Win Fights and Work Smarter by Understanding Human Nature:

It turned out that the fifteen high-performance teams averaged 5.6 positive interactions for every negative one. The nineteen low-performance teams racked up a positive/negative ratio of just .363. That is, they had about three negative interactions for every positive one…

Also:

Curiously, the magic number also seems to have a close parallel in the ratio of positive behaviors…and negative behaviors…among monkeys and apes. Thus the five-to-one ratio begins to look suspiciously like a basic primate need.

(More here: 5 ways to strengthen your friendships.)

4) Want a better romantic relationship?

Add some visceral excitement. Roller coasters beat counseling. It’s called “misattribution of emotions” — thrills become associated with the people we share them with — even if they had nothing to do with them.

Via Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior:

When the men who crossed the wooden bridge saw the research assistant, most of them looked at her and saw just that, a studious research assistant. But for the men who crossed the rope bridge, anxiety and adrenaline translated into a heightened romantic interest in the assistant. Their physiological reactions affected their perceptions. …The bridge’s ability to enhance the men’s romantic attraction earned it the moniker “the love bridge” within the psychological community.

(More here: This simple thing kills many relationships.)

5) Want to be more productive?

Religiously use checklists. They’re simple and they work.

What happens when you consistently use checklists in an intensive care unit? People stop dying.

Via The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right:

The proportion of patients who didn’t receive the recommended care dropped from seventy per cent to four per cent; the occurrence of pneumonias fell by a quarter; and twenty-one fewer patients died than in the previous year. The researchers found that simply having the doctors and nurses in the I.C.U. make their own checklists for what they thought should be done each day improved the consistency of care to the point that, within a few weeks, the average length of patient stay in intensive care dropped by half.

(More here: 6 things that will make you more productive.)

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree. Join over 145,000 readers and get a free weekly email update here.

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TIME Love & Relationships

What I Learned When I Called Off My Engagement

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Let's just say that if you have major doubts about being engaged, you probably shouldn't be

xojane

My life with David* was a surprise. I had returned from a six-month stint in Osaka, Japan, to my small-town family home just out of Sydney, Australia. All my energy was focused on how I would get back to Japan — my life was there; all I had to do was graduate. When David offered to buy me a drink one night, I told him “My conversation is free — I’ll buy my own drinks.” He liked that. Independence had always been my jam, even in relationships.

We started dating and I went from playing it cool to love sick in four days flat. Wanting to hear from him all the time, to know he was interested, that I was valued. From someone who didn’t care about marriage to thinking constantly about my imaginary future children and what I would cook for my man that night.

I quietly shelved my dreams of returning to Osaka for the white picket fence. All this time I was waiting, hinting, wondering when he would pop the question.

We were in my late grandfathers’ home one night when David told me to close my eyes and he led me to the lounge. I could see the warmth of candles glowing behind my shut eyelids and all of a sudden, I was filled with a mix of “YES! It’s happening!” and a gut feeling that said “I don’t want this.”

READ MORE 5 Strange But Effective Ways to Get Over a Breakup

Opening my eyes to the man I loved on one knee, ring in hand, I knew that the only answer was “yes.” I couldn’t afford to lose my dream life with my dream man, but I was utterly bewildered by this nagging feeling and worse, it wouldn’t go away.

Let’s just say that if you have major doubts about being engaged, you probably shouldn’t be. I’m not talking about your standard nervousness; I mean debilitating, undermining doubt.

My ideas about marriage made me beyond uncomfortable. I was outright scared. From the price-per-head to musing over what makes a “good wife,” I was afraid. Without ever planning to, I set about sabotaging the whole thing, the very thing I had wanted…and one day, didn’t want any more.

I realized that my whole world was based on him. I had put aside my plans for myself to force myself into an identity I didn’t fit, all in the hope of impressing him enough to stay. Sure, he stayed, but I was directionless and depressed, jumping from one shaky job to another and running myself into the ground trying to make a meaningful life. He wanted a support person, I wanted to blaze trails. I didn’t know how to reconcile my values with who I had become. Slowly, I began to resent him for it.

One day, David told me “This should be enough for you.” It wasn’t, and I utterly despised the arrogance that dripped from that comment — that a good man should be enough for a woman.

The last straw came when I asked him to visit Osaka for a week with me. I was meeting up with my best girl. She lived halfway across the world from me, and she needed to get out of Missouri after a string of bad luck. My soul was exhausted, and this girl was my conduit to the me I had lost. At that moment, nothing was more important to me. He wouldn’t come, but he was vicious when I suggested I go alone. My blood boiled. I went anyway.

READ MORE The One Word That Sums Up Everything You Need to Do to Be Happier

I called off the engagement before the relationship ended. I took my fears to mean that it wasn’t the right time yet. He put on a brave face and said that was okay. But, dear reader, pro tip: If you end your engagement, you will hurt the other person. Even if you love them. Even if you still think you’ll marry them one day. While you’re saying “I’m not ready for this,” they may hear “I’m not ready for you,” and, wait for it, they may leave.

I spent a long time trying to reconcile my thirst for freedom and adventure with the image of domesticity that marriage presented me. I began to seriously wish I was “free.”

Then it ended, he moved out, and I was. I didn’t know what to do with all that space. I was lonely and doubly afraid. That’s what happens when you wrap your self-worth up in someone else and then they’re not there. I knew I had to set about recovering, so here’s what I did.

  1. I cried. I cried at home. I cried at work. I cried on the treadmill. I had so many feelings.
  2. I banned love songs and negative self-talk. I was so frequently bubbling with rejection and rage and unspoken hurt, I didn’t need to wield those two oh-so popular weapons.
  3. I lived day to day. I couldn’t cope with this “no plans” business without someone to fill the space (he was my plan), so I just disengaged and took each day as it came. Until I saw cheap flights and then I made plans…
  4. …and caught planes. Lots of them. It was lonely and beautiful and I could then cry in planes, too.
  5. I rebounded. The first post-breakup kiss made my stomach flip. I thought I was going to be sick. Next tip: If your body says it’s wrong, listen up!
  6. I travelled more. I walked more. I cried less.
  7. I made new friendships and re-learned that I wasn’t totally wretched and unlovable. I was just hurt.

There were setbacks — phone calls that I sincerely regret making — made in part to get him back, in part to punish him for leaving me. If he was going to break my heart I wasn’t going to make it comfortable for him. Still, I wouldn’t hear other people speak badly of him and publicly I kept a straight face, the whole while trying to grasp onto some idea of what on earth I had done. Last tip: Don’t make that call, you’ll regret it. Even if you think they deserve it, it’s self-deprecating and will do nothing good for your morale.

My recovery meant a million references to the “stages of grieving” and I realized that they really don’t work in a linear way. You’ll think you’re all healed up and then you’re a total mess again. Grief and rejection are vicious jerks and they will wear you out. And occasionally they are more powerful than memory, fact and rationality.

“One day it will be okay” was my mantra. And one day it was okay.

READ MORE 10 Things That Will Change the Way You Think About Love

The biggest thing I learned in this roller coaster is the value of listening to myself, knowing what is right for me and the importance of having the courage to act on that intuition. To grow my personal capital before I bank on someone else. And to honour that voice that says “Something’s wrong.” It’s better to listen up than to find yourself Googling “trapped and unhappy” in ten years.

It was close… and weddings still make me that little bit uncomfortable.

____

*Not actually called David, obviously.

Ruth Harrison is a writer. This article originally appeared on xoJane.com

Read next: The Science of Dealing With People You Hate

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME relationships

I’m a Science Nerd Who Gamed Dating and Found the Love of My Life

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Duana C. Welch, Ph.D., is the author of 'Love Factually: 10 Proven Steps from I Wish to I Do,' releasing on January 7, 2015. You can get a free chapter and see more at www.lovefactually.co.

When I met the love of my life, I didn’t choose him for romantic reasons at first. I chose him because the science said to

xojane

Take it from me: There’s nothing better than waking up next to your forever sweetheart. But I speak from experience when I say there’s little worse than trying to find him if you don’t know what you’re doing.

For many years, I struggled and got my heart broken. Finally, it occurred to me: I’m a science nerd. Haven’t some other nerds studied the foundation of successful relationships? And if so, could I game the data and make it work for me?

Yes, and yes. Here’s what I did, and how you can do it too.

I Stopped Thinking Love Was Enough

Love Is All You Need makes for a great song, but not a workable life plan.

BS (Before Science), I fell in love and hoped everything would work out; after all, isn’t it true that if you have love, you’ve got it all?

Lots of folks think so. Most Americans list love as the main or only reason for marriage, and that’s a trend found throughout the Western world. But that doesn’t always pan out so well; just consider the 47% divorce rate for first marriages, and the 75% divorce rate for couples where both partners brought children to the union.

Or consider my own divorce. I loved my ex; but it didn’t save us.

I’m not suggesting love is unimportant. All over the world, love is literally considered indispensable in a life mate. And folks who don’t love their mate tend to cheat or leave. So don’t marry without it! But science now shows that love is “necessary but not sufficient” — required, but not the only requirement.

I Started Valuing The Right Stuff

Fortunately, 4+ decades of research showed me what’s absolutely necessary in a partner if you want your marriage to be long and happy: kindness, respect, and similarity.

As Dave Barry said, “A person who’s nice to you but rude to the waiter is not a nice person.” Science couldn’t agree more. In fact, it’s impossible to overstate the importance of finding and being someone kind and respectful — not only to us, but to others, even when things aren’t going their way. The wrong partner takes their bad day out on others; the right one exercises self-control and treats us well anyway.

Research in 37 countries and cultures also shows it’s also vital to find someone as similar to us as possible. People don’t argue over the ways they’re alike! In one big study, scientists listed the most common things couples argue over, and every topic began with the word “differences.” Choosing birds of a feather will make your whole life happier, whereas opposites detract.

The surprising way to get similarity? Make a list of everything you want in a partner, and then divide it into your Must-Haves and Desirables. Must-Haves are just that — things without which this relationship is a no-go. Desirables are things you’d love to have, but if the guy was otherwise golden, you could happily compromise.

The List helps you get someone similar to you because as it happens, most folks end up describing themselves. Those are the best standards you can have.

I did all this, and Vic was a total mesh and mensch. My every day is happy because I can be myself and know he loves that — and versa-vice.

I Stopped Doing First Things Last

Right now, America is smack-dab in the middle of hook-up culture — a nebulous way of getting involved where people start with some level of sexual activity, then fall in love (or not), and only then examine whether they’re compatible.

This is a problem for at least two reasons. First, as we’ve already seen, we can fall in love with someone wrong for us. And second, hooking up can make it much likelier that women will fall for Mr. Wrong, while simultaneously prodding men to remain emotionally detached. In one study, fully 75% of women in a hook-up scenario said they were having a tough time keeping their emotional distance — but 75% of men said just the opposite!

Falling in love with the right one, and having him love us back, means reversing the hook-up process.

So I did. I made a list of what I wanted in a mate; I screened for kindness, respect, and similarity before allowing myself to fall deeply in love; and I made sure sex happened after everything else.

I gave myself the gift of using the best odds — in the right order.

I Started Nurturing Realistic Hope

Feeling hopeless? I know I did. In fact, Vic and I met when I was so disheartened from a prior break-up, I wanted to hole up and eat Little Debbies ‘til the end of time.

But science taught me that hope is the realistic attitude when it comes to finding and keeping love. Most people find a permanent mate; and twice as many married people are very happy than people who are living together, single, divorced, or widowed. Finding and keeping one good marriage partner makes people healthier, wealthier, happier, more accomplished, more sexually active and satisfied, and even longer-lived. I’d always wanted all of that; who wouldn’t?

If all these other people could do it, why not me? Why not you?

Plus, when we’re hopeless, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; we don’t make the effort, because we don’t see the point.

I also ditched the “There are no good men” line of thinking. I’m a pretty good person, and I’ll bet you are, too. And you can expect to attract what you offer. In fact, finding and marrying our equal is so common, there’s a scientific term for it: the matching phenomenon.

So I knew that if I had good stuff to offer, it was entirely reasonable to hold out for someone who had that good stuff in return. Vic and I are true peers — seeing eye to eye and loving each other to the core.

I Stopped Expecting Dating To Be Fun, & I Started Going Out Whether or Not I Felt Like It.

Science also taught me something else about hope: When we work toward our goals, especially when the task isn’t necessarily fun, hope grows stronger.

So instead of waiting for hope to grow, or expecting dating to always be fun, I took action and watched my attitude follow.

Specifically, I developed a policy of going out anytime someone asked me, regardless of my desire to date. Despite a terrible break-up just prior to meeting Vic, I said yes when he asked to see me.

Here’s where I’m supposed to say we lived happily ever after. And it’s true; just not in the “head over heels from the day we met” kind of way.

See, I’m in an arranged marriage. I arranged it, through science instead of kin. Tired of being hurt, I learned everything I could about finding and keeping love, and I applied it. I persevered no matter how disappointed or heartbroken I’d been, because I learned to look at dating as a process not unlike job interviews; I needed someone fantastic for the job of My Life Partner, and I needed to work for as long as it took until I found him and he found me right back.

I nurtured hope, which is realistic, instead of pessimism, which is fatalistic. I showed men I liked them, but I didn’t let my heart go until they matched me and loved me first. I applied the science, much as a loving family might apply their standards, levelly and coolly, to choose a mate for their beloved grown child.

I didn’t marry for love. I married for a good match in every important regard, plus kindness, respect, similarity — and love. I got what research shows people tend to get from that: a love that started slowly and has built every year. Vic and I are coming up on our seventh wedding anniversary. I love him more now than the day we wed, and more every year than the year before.

Upshot? When I met the love of my life, I didn’t choose him for romantic reasons at first. I chose him because the science said to. The romance followed, stronger and stronger, and we will love each other for a lifetime. I wish the same for you.

This article originally appeared on xoJane.com

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME celebrities

Jennifer Lopez: Dating Younger Men is ‘No Big Deal’

Singer Jennifer Lopez at "American Idol XIV" Red Carpet Event in Los Angeles, Ca. on Dec. 9, 2014.
Jason Merritt—Getty Images Singer Jennifer Lopez at "American Idol XIV" Red Carpet Event in Los Angeles, Ca. on Dec. 9, 2014.

The singer finds "comfort" in relationships, despite the hardships her love life has repeatedly faced

In her words, Jennifer Lopez is a “love addict.”

The artist, who considers herself a dancer first and foremost, admits in Self‘s January cover story that she finds “comfort” in relationships, despite the hardships her love life has repeatedly faced.

Lopez, whose Benjamin Button-like condition continues to run rampant, looks fairly incredible in the magazine, her toned body on athletic and age-defying display. In one photo, she bares all – and mid pull-up, to boot – in a pair of white briefs and a white, long-sleeved crop top.

“I’ve been through divorce. I’ve been cheated on, just like every other girl in the world,” Lopez, 45, told the mag of the similarities between herself and her character in The Boy Next Door, an upcoming psychological thriller that features her as a separated woman who falls in love with the high school-aged boy next door.

“So you sympathize, you understand the emotions. And I’ve dated a younger guy once in my life,” she added, referencing her 2½ year relationship with choreographer and dancer Casper Smart, who is nearly 20 years her junior. The couple split in June, and Lopez is currently single.

“I could definitely understand that part, too – the attraction.”

“All the old clichés about women need to be undone. Enough already,” Lopez added. “We’re in the other position now. We are desirable older, we can date younger guys and it’s not this big taboo. Men have been doing this for years, and it’s no big deal.”

On her many high-profile relationships, breakups and makeups, Lopez revealed to Self: “When you have that much pain, you have to anesthetize yourself in some ways. People do different things. Some go out and party and sleep around, but that’s just not my way. I found the comfort in someone else.”

Lopez will appear at PEOPLE’s first ever PEOPLE Magazine Awards on Thursday, airing at 9 p.m. ET on NBC. The Boy Next Door hits theaters Jan. 23.

This article originally appeared on People.com

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