Having a partner may be more important than anything else when seeking parental happiness.
A recently released report from the Institute of Family Studies this week found that couples find marital happiness most when they have a partner who’s able to “share the work-family load," regardless of how it is divided.
That is to say, couples are happier when they find a division of labor that works for them, according to Laurie DeRose, research director for the report. When a parent has a partner who helps in some way, he or she reported higher levels of happiness, the study found.
“Among parents, couples dividing labor in very different ways express mostly similar levels of happiness, although parents who have a partner with whom to divide the labor report more happiness than parents who do not have a partner,” the report said.
The study measured marital happiness against parents' styles of division of labor. These scenarios included situations where one spouse does paid work; where both partners do paid work and one or the other does more work at home; where there is no partner (single parent) and where couples share the workload at home.
The study found that all groups who had a partner to share tasks with in some way were happier than those who did not have a partner to share tasks with at all.
And helping your partner, whether with child care or other needs, has long been linked to improved marital satisfaction.
Earlier this month, a study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationship found that couples who help each other grow and shoulder the burden of learning new skills will also find more happiness, according to Science of Relationships.
“In short, if you have been together for a while, receiving support from a partner when you’re doing things that promote your own self-growth heightens your satisfaction with your relationship,” according to Science of Relationships. “We all have individual interests and goals that we are pursuing, and when our partners support us in achieving those goals it makes our relationship with them stronger.”
To find this, researchers separated couples into two groups: one in which a partner learned a new skill and another in which the partner experienced a stressful event. The participants were told their partners sent them a message — either one of encouragement or a passive one — and then were surveyed about their relationship satisfaction. Couples who received encouraging notes reported higher satisfaction.
These findings are similar to a study published in 2014 that said you know you’re with the right person when your partner helps you feel you’re the best version of yourself, according to Deseret News' Lois Collins.
"Individuals in satisfying romantic relationships often report experiencing positive changes to their self-concepts as a result of their relationship partners. For example, it is common to hear someone speak glowingly of their romantic partner by stating, 'He makes me a better person' or 'I like the person I am when I'm around her,'" the researchers wrote.
Of course, looking for the right partner is easier said than done, and people have differing opinions about what will lead to a successful marriage. Some say it’s better to marry someone your age because that will help cut down on marital conflicts, while others want to marry someone who’s found financial success because that can make marriage easier.
In fact, many millennial women are getting married later in life because they can’t find men who are financially successful, according to Deseret News National. This is largely in part because the level of education among women has risen, leaving fewer similarly educated men for them to marry, Mark Kellner reported. Young women feel that marrying someone who’s financially secure will limit conflict, too.
But no matter what method you follow to find the perfect person who will help you, it’s important to marry someone who’s humble, who loves you for who you are and who will always communicate with you to help you, according to Anita E. Kelly, Ph.D., of Psychology Today.
“When you do find that sincere, humble, fair-minded person, you might be shocked to discover how sexy he or she is,” Kelly wrote. “It might be overwhelming to finally share a passion based on discovering the person in front of you — free from the conventional gender roles and judgments. There is nothing to fear, however, because the formula for communicating remains simple: You always mean what you say.”
For more on finding the right spouse:
Herb Scribner is a writer for Deseret News National. Send him an email at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @herbscribner.