Any old talk show psychologist can give you the business about date nights and fetish gear to keep the spark alive. That's Talk Show Psychologist Tips For Romance 101. But it takes a ballsy renegade to have the guts to let you know that saving a relationship might be about imagining the most romantic solutions possible -- then doing the opposite.
That ballsy renegade is us.
So it's been a long week at work, both of you are stressed out and when you do see each other, you end up fighting like rabid monkeys. But now it's the weekend! You can relax and spend your free time playing tennis (which he loves) and taking pictures of each other with ironic finger mustaches (which she loves). But you have to do these things together because you are a couple, dammit, and you love each other.
No line to the women's toilets will ever come between you!
This one sounds painfully obvious when explained, but we'll be damned if we can't think of a couple who doesn't make this mistake.
Studies show that it is actually better to keep your fun time separate, especially when it involves a hobby that one partner likes and the other just tolerates. A 10 year study showed that short of murder, the absolute worst thing a couple can do is engage in activities that only one partner enjoyed.
Like sleeping with other people.
All other things being equal, those couples reported the least satisfaction with their marriages. And the couples with the cojones to admit they have more fun keeping hobby time separate report greater happiness with their marriages than the fools who forced each other to co-enjoy their crap hobbies.
"Wait, how did I get on this boat? I'm trying to raid here!"
Some relationship experts even recommend that couples take separate vacations to fan the flames of romance. After all, taking a vacation is a big undertaking and a huge luxury. So what happens when you really want to go to the beach but your girlfriend likes the snake zoo? There isn't all that much room to compromise -- someone is going to end up brooding and blubbering like a baby in the gift shop. The answer is simple, if a bit shocking: Go to the places you love alone or with like-minded friends. As long as your co-vacationer isn't your hot ex-lover, you're likely to come home relaxed and happy. And your spouse is likely to have enjoyed her alone time as well. WIN-WIN!
"Hey, honey. Glad you're not here."
And on a similar note ...
As anyone who's ever watched a sitcom in the last 60 years knows, getting sent to the couch is a pretty obvious sign that someone in the relationship (the husband) has screwed up. In other words, in our minds, sleeping apart = unhappy relationship. So the idea of sleeping apart from your significant other, every night, on purpose, seems like a sure pit stop on the highway to Splitsville.
Splitsville, twinned with Bitter-Recriminationsprings.
But in reality, it might be the best thing for your relationship.
You're probably already aware that a big chunk of your quality of life depends on how much and how well you sleep. Well, there is almost no way those slumber hours are going to be improved on by adding another person into the mix. On average, people are woken up six times a night by their partner. Everything from hogging the sheets, to rolling over, to jimmy legs, to the sweats and night terrors can ruin the quality of your partner's rest, night after night, week after week. Not to mention the estimated 90 million Americans who snore. If you're one of them, you might be robbing your bed buddy of up to two hours of sleep a night.
"That's one Ambien for me, and as many as it takes for him to make sure he never wakes up."
And yes, this can lead to a breakup. Marriage counselors have known for years that, for instance, morning people married to night people have higher divorce rates due to the all around grumpiness that ensues because of their inability to mesh their schedules. With more people working jobs with irregular hours, as well as bringing bright, loud gadgets to bed, some of the happiest couples are intentionally splitting up to catch their Z's.
"You don't have an alarm in your room, yet, so it'll be dick-slaps from here on out."
In fact, the idea is proving so popular that the National Association of Home Builders predicted that by 2015, 60 percent of custom built houses will have two master bedrooms. Of course, that prediction was made in 2007, before the economy went to shit and people started moving back in with their parents.
"Like hell you're taking up another room, Junior. Go sleep with your wife."
It's not surprising that some studies show that the happiest and most successful relationships are between people with a huge number of similarities. Which probably explains why so many old couples thank their mutual love of racial slurs and neck-baring haircuts for their long marriages.
"Our hatred of Mexicans is what makes us strong!"
For the rest of us, everything from similar economic and religious backgrounds, to having the same friends, to both being the oldest sibling can contribute to a happy, long-term relationship. However, there seems to be two very big, very glaring exceptions. You want to hook up with someone who is both less smart and uglier than you ...
... if you are a woman. Guys, keep on trying to nail those supermodel-geophysicists. Ladies, lower your standards -- apparently it will make you much happier in the long run.
Especially you, Nobel Prize-winning hot girl!
Sure, an Angelina could snag a Brad with her looks, but studies show that the happiest relationships are the ones where the woman is noticeably more attractive than the man. And it doesn't matter if the couple is gorgeous or average looking, the woman just needs to be hotter than the man.
One study assessed the level of attractiveness of recently married couples, then quizzed them on their level of happiness with the relationship. While observing the couples discuss a marriage problem together, scientists found that more attractive husbands tended to be less happy in the marriage and less engaged in problem solving with their wives. Additionally, in relationships where the men were more attractive, the women seemed to treat them with less respect. Meanwhile, less attractive men were more attentive and positive with their wives, which resulted in better problem solving between the couples.
"Problem: You hate me. Solution: I will worship you as a God."
In other words, uglier husbands had nicer wives. Why? Researchers speculated that "attractive men have available to them more short-term mating opportunities which may make them less satisfied and less committed to maintain the marital relationship through their behavior." Soooo, hotter guys resent their ugly wives because they're horny dicks? Meanwhile, women are apparently less concerned about appearance, so the only time attractiveness matters is when their bastard husbands resent them for not being hot? Is that what you're saying, science?
Why do you hate men, science?
A different group of scientists who came up with the "ideal marriage formula" decided the wife should be a bit younger, couples should come from similar backgrounds and that the wife should be at least 27 percent smarter than her husband for maximum marriage happiness.
"Is that drool? Get your coat, my man -- you're pulled."
The reason, according to them, is that women are going to be more invested in the relationship. Back in caveman days, men were biologically pre-wired for spreading their juice around. Women, on the other hand, were more likely to put their heart, soul and brains into preserving the marriage bond, so she'd need her wits to keep her male whore husband from running off with the trollop from the cave next door.