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Two scientists believe they’ve found the two questions that show – with “clear empirical evidence” – if you’re really in love and whether your marriage will last or not.
The questions are:
1) How happy are you in your marriage versus how happy you’d be if you weren’t in it?
2) How do you think your spouse answered that question?
See? Very simple. These are the exact questions that University of Virginia economists Leora Friedberg and Steven Stern asked 4,242 couples on two occasions, six years apart.
After analysing the data, they discovered that those who thought they’d be just as happy not in their marriage were more likely to have broken up by the second round of questioning. (Post continues after gallery.)
“While the questions take quite a broad approach and there is room for many layers of follow-up questions, they are certainly a good starting point for everyone in a relationship,” says psychologist and director of Personal Enrichment Services Dan Martin.
Worryingly, only 40.9 per cent of participants were able to accurately identify how their partner felt about their relationship, which experts say is a leading cause of many relationship problems.
“How a person answers a question about their relationship or about their spouse can say a lot,” explains psychotherapist and relationship coach Melissa Ferrari.
“Sometimes it’s not even in the words that are said, it can be more in the way a person answers a question with spontaneity, enthusiasm and ease that can say a lot about their relationship or their partner and the quality of their relationship.”
The study researchers warned that according to “bargaining theory”, misjudging your spouse’s emotions could actually lead you to bargain “too hard” and unknowingly cause a break up.
Let us explain.
"If I believe my wife is really happy in the marriage, I might push her to do more chores or contribute a larger portion of the family income," explains study researcher Professor Stern.
"If, unbeknownst to me, she's actually just lukewarm about the marriage, or she's got a really good-looking guy who is interested in her, she may decide those demands are the last straw, and decide a divorce would be a better option for her.
"In this scenario, pushing a bargain too hard, based on misperception of a partner's happiness, will result in a divorce that wouldn't otherwise have occurred," he says.
Because of this, study co-research professor Friedberg stressed how important it was to pick your battles.
"This data shows that people aren't being as tough negotiators as they could be, and then we realised that we needed to include caring in the model for it to make sense," she says.