From the moment you say “I do,” a tiny question might pop into the back of your mind: “Will we make it?” That doesn’t mean you have doubts. It’s merely a nod to the state of our collective unions. We all know couples who are separated, and the data on divorce isn’t promising. Still, the newly wedded continue to say things like “love of my life” and make wedding vows that include promises to listen, trust, and meet each other’s needs. Despite this, not every couple will stay together.
Imagine, however, if you could predict whether you and your partner would be together 10, 20, or 30 years from now? Years of research from Emma Seppälä, PhD, and Kim Cameron, PhD, suggest there is in fact one key predictor of successful relationships that stands above the rest (and it’s more important than personality, attraction, or money). It’s called positive relational energy.
Understanding Positive Relational Energy
As Dr. Seppälä explains in an article for PsychologyToday.com, positive relational energy is energy that helps uplift and revitalize someone, who in turn helps uplift and revitalize someone else. In long-term relationships, it’s a positive cycle that’s been shown to strengthen bonds.
Dr. Seppälä, Dr. Cameron, and their colleagues conducted several studies in work environments to explore positive relational energy. In these studies, they asked participants to determine which people in their networks were the most positive, uplifting, and inspirational. The researchers also asked participants about other coworkers, and had them answer this question: “When I interact with this person in my organization, what happens to my energy?”
From there, the researchers determined which members of the organization had the greatest positive relational energy. They called these people “positive energizers.” The investigators also determined the impact of positive energizers — they helped produce higher levels of engagement at work, feelings of well-being, and lower employee turnover. Work relationships lasted longer and became healthier because of positive relational energy.
This research can apply to married couples as well. Dr. Seppälä explains that positive relational energy correlates with relationship success because it leaves partners feeling inspired and more connected.
How To Know if Your Partner Is a Positive Energizer
Here’s a simple test you can do to see if your partner is what Dr. Seppälä and Dr. Cameron call a positive energizer: When you interact with your partner, what happens to your energy? Do you feel invigorated, enthused, and in tune with each other? Or do you feel de-energized, demoralized, diminished, and uninspired?
Rate your energy on a one to five scale, with one being very de-energized and five being incredibly energized. This will give you a better idea of whether your relationship feels emotionally unhealthy, healthy but with need of some improvement, or very healthy.
How To Become a Positive Energizer
If you believe that you or your partner need help in learning and practicing positive relationship energy, don’t be embarrassed: Most of us do. Here are a couple tips from Dr. Seppälä to help you:
- Find small and big ways to uplift your partner. This in turn will inspire and energize you, creating a positive feedback loop where you get better and better at uplifting your partner. A few ideas: Listen to your partner more carefully, and ask questions about how you can help them with tasks or emotional support.
- Take care of yourself. This may seem odd if your intention is to energize your partner. However, as the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup. You will be more successful at positive relational energy if you take steps to improve your own mental and physical wellbeing. Healthy diet, exercise, meditation, nature walks, reading, community service, and talk therapy can all help.
The other benefit of positive relational energy? High quality relationships — not just with your significant other, but with those around you — may increase your life expectancy.
Ultimately, it’s never too late to make a positive change, as long as you want to make one.
This article originally appeared on our sister site, First for Women.