(NaturalNews) Research shows that there are five key elements that are most likely to make a long-term relationship succeed, according to a meta-analysis conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois.
"Relationships are like cars in that you have do certain things to keep them running, especially when your goal is to strengthen and preserve your bond with your partner," researcher Brian Ogolsky said.
The researchers analyzed the data from 35 separate studies and an additional 12,273 individual reports. They found that the five elements most strongly correlated with relationship success were openness, positivity, assurances, shared tasks and a shared social network.
"It's ... important to assure your partner that you're in the relationship for the long haul, to divide household chores and responsibilities equally, and to make an effort to include your partner's friends and family in some of your activities," Ogolsky said.
Openness includes behaviors such as talking about one's feelings and encouraging one's partner to talk about his or her feelings as well. Positivity consists of having cheerful and good-natured interactions with each other, as well as being "fun."
"Persons who use any of these maintenance strategies will not only be more satisfied with and committed to their relationship, they are also likely to continue to love and, yes, even like each other throughout its duration," Ogolsky said.
If they don't notice, it doesn't count
Notably, the researchers found that the five strategies were highly correlated with one another; that is, a person who exhibited any one of these traits was highly likely to exhibit all five. Likewise, a person who noticed that a partner was exhibiting any one of the traits was also likely to notice their efforts in all the other areas, as well.
This last finding was important, because the study also showed that a person's actions were far less important than how their actions were perceived by their partner. In other words, the five strategies only work if they are noticed. Conflict regularly arises if one partner believes that they are putting significantly more effort into the relationship.
"Say you've arrived home from work and your intention all day has been to buy some flowers for your partner and surprise her with dinner," Ogolsky said. "Then you get wrapped up in a business phone call and your good intentions fall by the wayside. You may feel as if you've put considerable effort into your relationship, but your partner didn't see it so it does you no good."
A major obstacle to successfully employing the five strategies is people's tendency to get so busy that they get wrapped up in their routines and take each other for granted, Ogolsky said. Yet even a little effort can go a long way.
"Even a small attempt at maintenance, such as asking how your partner's day was, sending a humorous text to make him laugh, or picking up the phone and calling your mother- or father-in-law, can have a positive impact on your relationship and make you happier," he said.