People have been thinking about the secret to finding happiness since the beginning of time. Croseus, the famously rich king who reigned around 560 BC in Asia Minor, supposedly said, “No one who lives is happy.”
Meanwhile, the British poet, essayist, literary critic, biographer, and editor Samuel Johnson thought being happy in the moment can only be achieved by being drunk.
Most people think that material comforts are the key to happiness. In one recent study, 80 percent of Millennials said a major life goal was to get rich, and 50 percent said another major goal was to become famous.
But all of the research we have is consistent: Money does not buy happiness. Once you get out of the poverty level and into the middle class, money is not particularly correlated with increased happiness. And as anyone who’s followed the lives of child stars knows, fame doesn’t guarantee happiness either.
So what does correlate with happiness?
Relationships are a key factor in long-term happiness. Studies have shown that this effect is strongest for married people.
How good is your relationship? To find out, take the SexSmart marriage quiz here.
Score it on a scale from 0 to 10, with zero being absolutely terrible and 10 being wonderful. You and your partner can both print out this test and score it and share your scores.
It’s important to take a quiz like this. I particularly like to look at a question like, “Is your partner your best friend?” or “If you are upset, can you go to your partner for comfort?”
Though marriage is correlated with happiness, it has to be a strong, healthy marriage in order for that to be true. So if your marriage is an unhappy one, or if you see a few areas that can be improved, a great investment you can make in your own happiness is to work on improving it, and do that as soon as you can.
Fixing a problematic marriage isn’t easy. It isn’t like taking a pill for chronic heartburn, for example. Relationships are complicated. We each have our own individual histories, and we trigger feelings in one another.
It’s hard to be disappointed by another person, but it would be impossible to be in a long term relationship without ever feeling disappointed or scared. But you can learn to tolerate and sort through difficult feelings and improve your relationship.
Often the first step is honestly sharing feelings and really listening to each other. I’ve seen marriages improve with just a few hours of constructive and honest sharing and listening.
If you take the quiz and find you can’t sit down and hash out some of the areas of disagreement civilly, it’s worth considering going to couple therapy.
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