As you probably already know, there isn't just one key to ensure long-term relationship success. From sharing laughs to having open and honest communication, research has found there's actually quite a bit of different things you should have in order to have a happy relationship. And according to a new study published in the journal Emotion, there's another one: compassion is the most important quality to have in a happy marriage. "Practicing compassion is as much about what we don't share as what we do," Evie Shafner, LMFT, therapist and one of the founders of the Los Angeles Women’s Therapy Center tells Bustle. "The little moments of annoyance or irritation, a look, a tone of disapproval — these little things we don’t say can do so much to destroy any good efforts. So, practicing containing criticism of any kind is as important as saying kind and loving things."
Harry Reis, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, and colleagues studied 175 heterosexual newlyweds who were married for an average of seven months. For two weeks, participants were asked to keep a daily diary and record instances where either spouse put aside their personal wants in order to meet their partner's needs. Participants also kept track of their daily emotional states based on 14 positive and negative word choices like enthusiastic, happy, angry, and hurt.
On average, it was found that husbands and wives give and receive and average of .65 and .59 "compassionate acts" each day. Acts included things like changing their individual plans for the sake of their partner's and showing more affection to their spouse. As it was found, donors of the acts felt the greatest impacts when their acts were recognized by the recipients. Recipients also benefitted the most when the act was recognized as being intentional. But the best finding of all was that donors emotionally benefitted from acts regardless of whether or not recipients explicitly noticed the act. In other words, as they wrote in the study, "acting compassionately may be its own reward."
So clearly in this case, it feels much better to give than it is to receive. As this study found, showing your partner you care through compassionate acts can be beneficial to both you and your partner. Here are ways to be more compassionate in your relationship: