Magazine article Work & Family Life

'Self-Expansion' Is Key to a Happy Marriage

Magazine article Work & Family Life

'Self-Expansion' Is Key to a Happy Marriage

Article excerpt

Over the course of history, marriage has mainly been an economic and social institution. The emotional and intellectual needs of spouses were considered less important than the survival of the marriage itself. So a long marriage wasn't necessarily a happy one.

But these days couples want more than just to stay together, says Arthur Aron, Ph.D., director of the Interpersonal Relationships Lab at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. They're looking for a partnership - and they want partners who will make their lives more interesting, more meaningful and more satisfying.

Dr. Aron and Gary W. Lesandowski Jr., Ph.D., of Monmouth University in New Jersey, have published their marriage research in the Journal of Social Psychology. They have reported that spouses use their marriage relationship to gain knowledge and experiences. And the more "self-expansion" they get from their partners, the more satisfied they are in their relationships.

Researcher Caryl Rusbult of Vrije University in Amsterdam calls this the "Michelangelo effect." As she explains it, marriage partners "sculpt" each other in ways that help each other grow and reach his or her desired goals. …

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