Selfish People Have Better Marriages!

Sasha Brown-Worsham

Learning to surf together
If you have ever been accused of being selfish in your marriage, take heart. The best kind of marriages are, apparently, the kinds where we maintain a bit of selfishness, according to a recent article in The New York Times.

Indeed, it seems partners who are actively engaged in learning new things bring more to the table than those who aren't. And partners who help one another learn new things and explore are happier than those who don't. I didn't need a study to tell me this.

Dr. Aron and Gary W. Lewandowski Jr., a professor at Monmouth University in New Jersey, have studied how individuals use a relationship to accumulate knowledge and experiences, a process called “self-expansion.” Research shows that the more self-expansion people experience from their partner, the more committed and satisfied they are in the relationship.

It makes a lot of sense. Who wants a boring spouse who talks about nothing but the weather and diapers? It's easy, especially after children, to get lost in a sea of burp cloths and chore assignments, but the marriage is the foundation on which the rest of the family stands. If that fails, there is trouble.

So why not attempt to keep it strong by learning new things or trying new things together? I just love it when a study comes along that validates what I'm already doing. My husband and I took the sustainable marriage quiz and scored quite high.

It's still very important to me to read books, run races, travel the world, take language courses, pursue my writing, and more. And my husband is pursuing a second master's degree and finishing a PhD. He goes to the gym regularly and we both are learning to rock climb and are traveling to Germany and the Netherlands together next month.

And we get accused of being selfish (particularly me) all the time, so yes, it was a bit validating to hear that we're in a sustainable marriage. I already knew it. But it was nice to hear. So don't neglect yourself! Learn new skills. Take that cooking class or learn to quilt. Involve your husband in the discussion and attend lectures, the opera, and the ballet.

If he likes car racing, then go with him. Maybe you will discover you like it, too. Keeping a marriage strong and happy is about more than doing the chores and throwing birthday parties. It's also about self-improvement and exploring things together.


What new things do you and your spouse do?


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