The Secret to Happiness…According to the Experts

Recently, I was listening to Harvard Professor Robert Waldinger talk about a research study conducted at Harvard University.  It is one of the longest studies ever.  Researchers followed a group of 700 men since they were teenagers.  They are now in their 90s.  They interviewed these men periodically over the last 70 years and analyzed their answers to learn what makes people happy.  Do you know what they found?

Happiness was based on relationships.  And, not just having lots of relationships, but rather having meaningful, close relationships.  Further, they found that the happiest people were the ones who reported having a secure relationship in their life. This means they have someone they know they can count on in times of need.  

As I listened to Dr. Waldinger talk about the importance of quality relationships as a major contributor to happiness (which I wholeheartedly agree with) it really got me thinking: Why do so many people neglect their marriage? Why does everything else in our lives get our full attention, work, kids, exercise, laundry, and yet, our marriage gets the scraps? Why don’t we just naturally want to overly invest in our marriage because of the happiness it can bring?

There are three reasons I can attribute to our lack of intention regarding our relationships.

1-  We don’t know it.  

Maybe we just don’t realize, as a culture, how important relationships are.  Maybe we don’t really know how relationships not only make us happier, but healthier too.  Maybe we don’t know that we are less prone to physical pain and are better able to recover from sickness and illness.  Maybe we don’t know that the effects of aging are slowed.  That’s right, mental abilities deteriorate at a slower rate for people with close, secure relationships.  Maybe we don’t know that relationships are one of the most powerful regulators of emotions, making them crucial to our emotional health.  If you are reading this blog, now you know.  I hope it motivates you to invest more in your marriage.

2- We get complacent.  

We don’t think it is truly necessary and go through our marriage on auto-pilot, hoping for the best. We assume our marriage is “fine” and “good enough” and doesn’t require focus and attention.  We assume it will just survive all of the pressures and temptations of life without having to be nurtured, protected and prioritized.  

3-We are blaming the wrong thing.  

We put the blame for our declining marriage on our partner not meeting our needs, not doing what we ask, not listening to us, not giving us enough sex, not helping enough.  We blame our partner INSTEAD of our lack of attention to our marriage.  We are quick to blame our partner.  We are slow to blame how we neglect our marriage.  It’s their fault because they are _______ instead of it’s our fault for letting our relationship slip down to number 10 on our list of priorities.  

What to do:

Learn.  Learn about the impact that improving your marriage can have on you.  You can read the whole article published by the Harvard Gazette in April 2017 regarding the results of their study here.  Or you can watch the TED talk given by Professor Waldinger below .

Change your view.  Stop over-focusing on your partner’s deficiencies and start focusing on how you can pour into your marriage.  Even better, read this post to your partner and ask them to brainstorm with you how you BOTH can start nurturing your marriage more.

ADD version

  • According to super-stellar research, secure relationships are the best predictors of happiness in people.
  • Secure relationships improve our mental, physical and emotional health.  
  • Learn the impact. Don’t get complacent.  And most of all, don’t blame your partner for the lack of attention and focus in your marriage.   

Professor Robert Waldinger’s TED Talk:

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