How to have a healthy relationship, according to science

Relationships are really, really hard and no relationship is without its problems. Even that couple you know that has been together for years, is always smiling at each other and posts cute couple photos all the time? Yep, they have their problems too. Perfect relationships simply don’t exist — get that through your head.

So what does science say is the best way to have a healthy relationship?

  • Communication: Duh, but communication is hard. One simple lesson to learn from research is how to argue well. The point of an argument isn’t to win — it’s about finding a solution. Your partner isn’t your enemy, so don’t treat them like one (even when they are being objectively annoying).
  • Compassion: There are two components to compassion — kindness and generosity. Say your partner is a giant nerd and points out a bigger-than-usual moon, which you give zero fucks about. Instead of dragging them away, suck it up and stare at the moon with them. If it’s important enough for them to have wanted to point out, show some compassion and indulge them. It might seem like a little thing, but this mentality could be the closest thing love has to a magic bullet.
  • Physical intimacy: Sex is a good start. But it isn’t the be-all, end-all of physical intimacy. A lot of research says that the more sex you have, the better your relationship is going to be. But just sex isn’t enough — you need to show physical intimacy beyond coitus. Cuddling, hugging and kissing are all strongly associated with greater relationship satisfaction. If you like someone, show them. They’ll be happier and so will you.
  • Don’t be a jerk: This is easier said than done, but it basically boils down to just not being selfish. Relationships have to be mutual. Give a little now and then — you might even like it.

Bonus tip, free of charge: Do new and exciting things with your partner. Your brain is too unevolved to know the difference between the excitement of the new thing and excitement associated with a person. Your brain will associate all the adrenaline from narrowly avoiding death-by-skydiving with your partner.

Koby Michaels is a third-year integrated science student, current science editor and former sports editor of The Ubyssey. He likes talking nerdy in bed, and refused to write anything personal for this issue.