Is “Self-Expansion" the Key to a Happy Marriage?

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Categories: Dating and Relationships

While men and women in the past have viewed marriage as a social contract that one must stick to no matter what, a recent article in The New York Times suggests that today’s married couples want, and expect, more from their marriage. Sticking it out for the sake of children, money, society, etc. simply doesn’t cut it anymore.

“The things that make a marriage last have more to do with communication skills, mental health, social support, stress — those are the things that allow it to last or not,” Arthur Aron, a psychology professor who directs the Interpersonal Relationships Laboratory at the State University of New York at Stony Brook told The New York Times. “But those things don’t necessarily make it meaningful or enjoyable or sustaining to the individual.”

So what does make a relationship meaningful and fulfilling? According to Aron and Dr. Lewandowski, a professor at Monmouth University in New Jersey, the answer is self-expansion. In other words, men and women want a spouse who makes their life more interesting and one who makes them feel good about themselves.

Think a desire for self-expansion sounds selfish? Dr. Lewandowski disagrees.

“If you’re seeking self-growth and obtain it from your partner, then that puts your partner in a pretty important position,” he explains. “And being able to help your partner’s self-expansion would be pretty pleasing to yourself.”

To aid couples exploring the concept of self-expansion, Lewandowski created a quiz that helps men and women measure how much (or how little) a significant other expands their knowledge and improves their self-esteem (link below).

“People have a fundamental motivation to improve the self and add to who they are as a person,” Dr. Lewandowski says. “If your partner is helping you become a better person, you become happier and more satisfied in the relationship.

Want to see how your marriage fares? Take the “Sustainable Marriage Quiz” here.

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