By Katherine Schreiber, published on March 15, 2011 - last reviewed on May 2, 2011
The cliché is true: Relationships are all about communication. But just what kind predicts bliss? Take this quiz to test your talk-it-out skills. —Katherine Schreiber
When Instant Messaging, which pronouns do happy couples use most?
A) I and Me
B) We and our
(A) Open up and say I! We shows up far less often than I in happy couples' Instant Message transcripts, Wayne State University researcher Richard Slatcher reports. In fact, the more frequently I is used, the more satisfied a pair is.
When partners speak to one another, we can indicate veiled nagging ("We should plan your parents' visit"). In contrast, me statements don't unwittingly rope partners in. "I usage marks the ability to voice thoughts and feelings," Slatcher says.
Your stressed partner will experience the biggest drop in anxiety when...
A) You make it obvious that you're there for him and tell him how to deal.
B) You deliver support so subtly that it doesn't even register for him.
(B) Subtlety counts. Minnesota researchers taped couples' stressful talks and found that folks who received subtle support—while believing they'd received less support—were most soothed.
"Visible support can convey that your partner's incapable of handling his issues," says investigator Maryhope Howland. Under-the-radar support deemphasizes the fact that the recipient needs help. Couch advice in personal examples: "This worked for me when I was struggling."
At the end of the day, happier couples are in the habit of...
A) Telling their mates about the mundane aspects of their day.
B) Leaving their minor workaday dramas at their desks.
(A) The littlest things matter, says University of Utah researcher Lisa Diamond. Among long-term couples, those who shared their daily ups and downs—and those who just listened to their mates' recaps—felt happiest before bedtime. "The minutiae of everyday life brings our partners into our daily experiences," Diamond explains. "As one person reveals something and the other responds, both feel involved and connected." Even sharing a bad moment boosts each partner's mood.
Do couples know each other less well as time goes on? Pairs who had spent an average of 40 more years together than younger participants were significantly worse at predicting a partner's food, film, and kitchen-design preferences, a Journal of Consumer Psychology study found. Researchers say older, long-term couples may pay less attention to each other, either because they view their relationship as already solid or because they think they know their partner well. Ask your honey what she'd like to do tonight—the answer may surprise you.