Simple acts of kindness are the things that keep people together, according to a study of more than 5,000 people by scientists at The Open University.
Dr Jacqui Gabb, co-author of the report said, “Actions really do speak louder than words and many people consider a loving gesture to be as valuable as hearing ‘I love you’. Grand romantic gestures, although appreciated, don’t nurture a relationship as much as bringing your partner a cup of tea in bed, or watching TV together.” Couples cherish affection and cuddles as much as sexual intimacy, though sex remains an important part of the relationship.
The in-depth survey revealed wide differences in men and women in middle age; with women over 55 scoring lowest on relationship satisfaction and men three times more likely than women to mention sexual intimacy as something which makes them feel appreciated.
Dr Janet Fink, another co-author of the report, said, “With a tough economic climate, the rise in grey divorce and social media opening up new ways to start affairs, it isn’t always easy to keep love alive today. However, our survey has shown that surviving adversities – even very difficult situations such as being out of work - can make a relationship much stronger. What doesn’t break you, can make you.”
The study also revealed that money issues are one of the most difficult aspects of modern relationships, but stress factors such as being out of work do appear to pull couples together.
Family relationships can also keep people together, and parenthood shapes relationship quality more than any other factor. Mothers are happiest in their life than any other group. From this, says the study, it seems that children create more happiness for women than partners, something that is backed up by other survey data including responses to the question: 'Who is the most important person in your life?' Mothers are most likely to select their children, while fathers overwhelmingly select their partner, bringing to mind Alice Thomas Ellis's famous witticism: 'There is no reciprocity. Men love women. Women love children. Children love hamsters. Hamsters don't love anyone'.
The Enduring Love? study was funded by the Economic & Social Research Council.
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