Quick: WhatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s your S.O.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s go-to Chinese spot? What about how well they can budget? These not-so-sexy factors might matter more than you think. After communication skills, the two biggest predictors of relationship satisfaction are a good knowledge of your partner and life skills (like managing money, staying healthy, keeping a job, etc.), according to new research soon to be published in the Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy.
The Results that Shocked Even Researchers Tons of studies have shown that certain factors predict a strong relationship, so a team of researchers including Robert Epstein, Ph.D., senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology, set out to determine which skills were the most important. After identifying seven major factors, they had 2,201 people complete a relationship skills assessment online, known as the Epstein Love Competencies Inventory, to see which ones were most predictive of current relationship satisfaction.
It wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t too surprising that communication was at the top, but the researchers were shocked to see that life skills and knowledge of your partner were also major factors. In fact, the other competenciesÃ¢â‚¬”like love, sex, stress management, and conflict resolutionÃ¢â‚¬”didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t even come close to predicting current satisfaction.
The New Signs of a Strong Bond Why are these so important? Epstein says itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s obvious that knowing everything from your partnerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s birthday to their clothing size can make the relationship run more smoothly. And knowing the bigger things can help you forge an even stronger bond. Ã¢â‚¬Å“In order to help someone grow as a person, you need to understand them, know what their dreams are, know what their fears are, and get what their daily life is all about,Ã¢â‚¬Â says relationship expert Diana Kirschner, Ph.D., author of 30 Days to Love: The Ultimate Relationship Turnaround Guide.
So how do life skills factor into the picture? Ã¢â‚¬Å“A lot of the things people fight about come down to life skills,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Epstein. That includes everything from work troubles, finances, or even just getting stuff done around the house. And whether this is lacking for one or both partners, it can take a huge toll on the relationship. Ã¢â‚¬Å“There can be a sense of personal failure and low self esteem if you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have life skills,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Kirschner. And if your partner is the one lacking, it may breed judgment and contempt, which is one of the worst things for a relationship, says Kirschner.
How to Boost Them in Your Relationship The good news is that both of these factors can be fixedÃ¢â‚¬”with some work. If you want to know more about your partner, set up mini listening sessions, says Kirschner. Make it fun and playful, like pretending to be back on your first date the next time you go to dinner. If your partner is particularly shy, start the conversation as youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re walking or sitting side by side. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Studies show if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not looking into their eyes, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s less intimidating,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Kirschner.
Unfortunately, life skills canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be learned overnight, but you can start to lay the groundwork immediately. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The person who is affected should seek coaching, therapy, or mentoring in the area that theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re lacking,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Kirschner. That can mean checking in with a credit counselor, going to networking events for their industry, or scheduling a session with an organization specialist. And if itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s your partner whoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s getting their life together, make sure to show your support and appreciation along the way, says Kirschner.
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