In the last decade, communication is always named as the most important ingredient for a happy relationship. But according to the latest study, there are other skills that can be considered as important to keep a happy relationship.

It has always been considered that expressing your feelings in a good way to your partner is a great approach to solve conflicts and building a strong foundation for a healthy relationship, but communication is not a confident predictor of a relationship’s happiness as been always thought.

Recently, scientists tested seven “relationship competencies” in an Internet-based study that had 2,201 participants that were referred by their couples counselors, these competencies were the subject of study due to their presence in different researches that also have been promoted by marital therapists.

The scientists wanted to rank in order of importance each competence with the purpose of creating data about which elements are the most vital to keep a relationship healthy, the competence were:

  •  Conflict resolution and communication.
  • Romance and sex.
  • Life skills.
  • Stress management and self-management.
  • Knowledge of partners.

These were studied to identify which were the best predictors of relationship happiness. Participants had to respond questions that were testing their abilities in these areas and then inquire about if they were satisfied with their partner. The scientists compared the strengths and weaknesses of each couple in every area with the couples’ satisfaction.

It wasn’t a surprise when the highest satisfaction levels were shown by those who responded to communicate better with their partner. But surprisingly, there were two other factors – which were strong aspects linked to happy couples. These were:

  • Knowledge of partner, for instance which were their dreams and hopes, as also their pizza-topping preferences.
  • Life skills, for example, how they handle money and if they were able to keep a job.

The problem is that couples counselors unusually talk about these areas when talking about strengthening relationships. Instead, improving communication is the focus to build comfort and support as also to reduce destructive behaviors. “For the last 25 years,” explains Tom Bradbury, a couples researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, “the prevailing attitude has been that relationships need to meet our emotional needs.”

According to Bradbury, relationships need to work in a practical way, and maybe in mundane ways too.

The lead author of the study, Robert Epstein, a professor of psychology at the University of the South Pacific, in Fiji, says that learning more about your significant other could be easier if people, and especially men (who were the ones that score worse in this specific area), work to find out, remember and use this simple information, like basic information as their partner’s dates of birthdays and relatives.

Something more important, Epstein explains, is knowing vital information like if your partner wants kids. He says that the study didn’t divide trivial from this kind of deep knowledge. According to him, these two are strongly connected.

While different marriage scientists agree that it can be highly annoying and detrimental to forget food preferences and birthdays in a relationship, they think that the relevance of life skills that appeared in the research is telling.

“It’s an old idea, really,” explains Bradbury. “In 1900 a woman or man would think, ‘My partner must be able to provide for me.’ ‘She must be able to help me plant and dig up the crops.’”

But nowadays, couples are interested in build strong relationships, explain the study’s researchers, therapists might start considering to go back to the basics and add a lot more of practical social skills into their talks. “Communication skills are necessary,” explains Lisa Neff, couples researcher at the University of Texas at Austin, “but they’re not sufficient when couples are under stress.”

It’s crucial for couples to learn how the world can affect their relationship, even if they already have a good communication. Healthy relationships, explains Bradbury, identify stressful factors outside of the home and they even know how to break down positive communication skills.

“Outside,” Bradbury tells, “there is a real world that impinges on us.”  The way to deal with this situation will take more than just communication. It takes also an understanding that even the strongest communication skills can falter when they are living under these stressful factors. According to Bradbury, the best thing to do in these cases is to work together and not separate. “It’s not you against each other; it’s you against the world,” he says.

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