Happiness in long-term intimate relationships is associated with all sorts of side benefits - longer and better quality of life, greater financial stability and potential for success in work - and researchers continue to turn up evidence we can use to design our lives in ways that reap those relationship rewards. Two recently published studies show the powerful effect one partner's background can have on the other. Strong, positive family bonds during adolescence, according to a study published in the Journal for the Association of Psychological Science, have an enormous impact on the ability to form and sustain healthy, long-term relationships in adulthood. But the big news coming out of this research, according to the primary investigator Dr. Robert Ackerman, is that "a positive family climate during adolescence for one marital partner was also associated with positive marital outcomes for both partners."
Our choice of a partner plays an important role in the kind of information and resources we will seek and utilize over the course of life as well. A study published by the Research Council of Norway found that partner with more education, or who is educated in areas that expose us to a more broad range of knowledge than we would find with someone similar to ourselves, can boost our chances of better health in the long term. "The mutual effects of spouses on education-based inequalities in health," the researchers state, "suggest that couples develop their socioeconomic position together."
These two studies show the ongoing influence partners have on one another's growth and possibility in life. This can bend a relationship toward the positive in many subtle but powerful ways. Adolescence is an emotionally-turbulent time in a person's development, and a stable family provides a structure within which identity is shaped and interpersonal skills are learned. This foundation goes a long way toward building up internal psychological reserves that bolster emotional strength and perspective-taking later in life. Because partners are continually learning from one another, one person's interpersonal skills and emotional grounding can both refuge and resource for the other.
Jude Treder-Wolff, LCSW, RMT, CGP is a trainer/consultant and writer/performer. Follow her on Twitter: @JuTrWolff