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How do married couples stay happy? Scientists say they know.


Sure, you'd love to grab your guy and catch a cheesy flick, take a stroll, or linger over wine and dessert. But before you think, "Yeah right, who has the time?" get this: According to new research from the University of Denver, spending time with your guy without discussing finances, kids, or daily hassles is not an indulgence--it's top priority, and crucial for your union.

"The more you invest in fun and friendship and being there for your partner, the happier the relationship will get over time," says Howard Markman, a psychologist who co-directs the university's Center for Marital and Family Studies.

"The correlation between fun and marital happiness is high, and significant."

And for men, having quality time with you is even more important, since men are more likely than women to call their spouse their best friend. Awwww....

The long-term study looked at 306 Denver-area couples, and asked them to agree or disagree with statements from a "friendship scale" such as, "We regularly have great conversations where we just talk as good friends," and "My partner really listens to me when I have something important to say."

The research supports previous findings published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, which showed sharing in new and exciting activities is consistently associated with better marriages. However if your idea of "something new" means watching Lost together, Markman says no dice, since activities like watching television or using the Internet don't build those lovey-dovey connections.

But one roadblock to achieving this quality time together is that many couples have different ideas of what "fun" and "bonding" means.

"Intimacy and friendship for a man is built on shared activity, but for women, shared activity is a backdrop for a great conversation," says Les Parrott, a psychology professor at Seattle Pacific University and co-author of several relationship books. "What she wants on date night is a time of intimacy and friendship. He's disappointed because she'll never go to a game or golfing, and it's during shared activities that his spirit is most likely to open up."

Another hurdle to marital bliss: Men and women have different definitions of a "date." When Denver researchers asked 908 people how long it had been since they had been on a date with their spouse, women complained it had been twice as long as men.

"Males and females have different definitions of what a date is," says Markman. "Females' definition is much more planned in advance and the husband puts more effort into it. For a guy, grabbing coffee is a date."

But if you both like baseball, you'll love this: When Markman conducted a study of cities with major league baseball teams, he discovered those cities had a 28 percent lower divorce rate than cities who didn't have teams, but wanted one. So while it may not be a marriage saver, it does offer couples a fun bonding experience.

That said, any type of fun you have together is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Says Thomas Bradbury, co-director of the Marriage and Family Development Laboratory and Relationship Institute at the University of California-Los Angeles: "People in happy relationships generate these activities, and as they generate these activities, it keeps their relationship strong and healthy and fresh."

Do you believe a couple who plays together stays together?

next: Bouncy House Brings Mom Down
2 comments so far | Post a comment now
Melissa July 21, 2008, 2:08 PM

I agree with this study. As a matter of fact i was just saying the same thing to my husband. With 2 children, jobs and a home to run things get busy. We just spent Sunday in our garage working together building some shelves. The closeness i felt for and with him all day made it one of the best days we have had for a long time. And the closeness translated into bedroom fun.

Diana Dodson July 22, 2008, 6:19 PM

July 22, 2008

Dear Teachers, Therapists, Counselors, and Friends,

My name is Diana Dodson. I’ve written a self-help book, “It’s Your Life, Take Charge.”

Because of the high divorce rate Oprah Winfrey did a program where there was a group of ministers, counselors, and lawyers, who felt that maybe pre-marital counseling should be mandated before marriage. This show was done because many couples go into marriage without a clear idea about what is needed to make a marriage work. She and her guests were very concerned about the family and the children and how the children will be affected if there is a divorce.

It seems that many people have taken on the attitude of selective religion, marriage, and family. I feel we all need to work together and embrace the spirit of living and how it applies to these three most important aspects of our lives.

As a counselor or teacher this book can help you with individual, group, marriage, and pre-marital counseling. There is a pre-marital and personal and partner assessment test to help in counseling individuals or couples to greater marital success. There is also a personal workbook for the individual to answer important questions about themselves, their parents, and their children.

Responsibility and choices are a major part of this book, which includes treating others the way you would want to be treated. It seems that selfishness can be singled out for every unhappy situation we all put ourselves in. I have tried to help people understand this and feel I have written the book in the true spirit of kindness.

I feel that before we can get rid of hate, anger, and crime we must get rid of alcohol and drug abuse. Drugs are totally unacceptable and alcohol must be done in moderation. We must also get rid of physical, sexual, and verbal abuse. These abuses are easier to act out when there is alcohol or drugs in our systems.

I feel through social psychological, and personal care we can all come together and have better lives. Change and help are not at odds, but are there to make life easier. With both venues working together it seems we can do a better job of helping people to have a purposeful and content spirit.

I feel the heart of all of us is our marriage and our families. If we abuse our children they will grow up with hate, anger, and rage that is often hard to deal with as they become adults. As you know, most parents who abuse their children were abused as children too. I have dealt with how to stop the abuse from the time the child is born.

These children aren’t born with hate and anger in them. These children are born with love, hope, and honor. Every child should be brought into the world with the love and the trust that their parents will respect and cherish them. When this doesn’t happen these adorable little spirits grow up and live the life they’ve learned. They’re rejected, hurt, and angry adults who want to hurt others.

I want to stop this, understand this, and help others to see where they are very capable of changing their lives and the lives of others through self evaluation and a true sense of how their behaviors harm others. I feel drugs and alcohol are the major problems in our society. Let’s stop this and get to the true love of ourselves and the spirit of living.

Please feel free to review the book at Authorhouse or order through

This isn’t a spam; you’re not on a mailing list. I get my information off of your web-sites. Because marriages are difficult, I’m sending this information to individuals who do marriage and family counseling.

Thank you for your time,
Diana Dodson

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