My wife Clare and I have been happily married for more than 35 years. The general view is that the key to a successful relationship is being open and honest, but a recent study suggests that a few secrets can bring a couple closer together.
Researchers from the University of Connecticut found that things like hiding a secret stash of chocolate from your partner (which I’ve admittedly done) are not only common, they can actually strengthen a relationship.
That’s because our feelings of guilt often lead to what researchers call “greater investments in relationships.” In other words, because I feel guilty (which I do) when I have a stash of chocolate, I’m more likely to clear out the bins or cook dinner (which is true).
They clearly aren’t talking about having big secrets, such as: a love child, but trivial things that the other person wouldn’t mind if they found out.
Using data from questionnaires, the researchers found that having a secret stash of groceries was the most common secret (40 percent), followed by spending money on clothing or jewelry (20 percent), making a secret donation (8 percent), or health/beauty – or spend on wellness products (6.3 percent), the Journal of Consumer Psychology reported.
Researchers from the University of Connecticut found that things like hiding a secret stash of chocolate from your partner are not only common, they can actually strengthen a relationship
A couple the researchers spoke to both claimed to be vegetarians but admitted to secretly eating meat when the other person wasn’t around.
I asked Clare if she knew I was hiding chocolate and if she had any objections. “Of course I know,” she said. “You’re incredibly bad at hiding things and I can hear you trying to quietly open a drawer and stuff chocolate into your mouth while hiding the sound of the wrapper being buried in the trash.”
All of this got me thinking about what science says about relationship success.
WAS YOUR PARTNER A SMILEY TEEN?
A surprising way to predict whether a couple will stay married is to examine the intensity and authenticity of their smiles in photos taken when they were young.
A real smile requires contraction of two muscle groups: the zygomaticus major, which raises the corners of the mouth, and the orbicularis oculi, the ring of muscles around the eye sockets. With a sincere smile, the corners of the mouth turn up and the eyes pucker. In a 2009 US study, researchers asked middle-aged men and women for photos from around the age of 18. The smiles in their photos were then rated on how real they were.
One in 20 of those whose smiles ranked in the top 10 percent (i.e., the most sincere) was divorced; those with a smile in the bottom 10 percent had a one in five chance of getting divorced.
The researchers said this could be because “smiling people attract other happier people and the combination can lead to a greater likelihood of a long-lasting marriage.”
DO YOU DO YOU VALUE THE THINGS YOU DO?
One of the biggest points of contention in any marriage is when one partner feels they are doing a disproportionate amount of the housework. In a recent study by the Pew Research Center in the US, more than half of the couples surveyed said that sharing housework is “very important” to a successful marriage, ranking just behind “common interests” and “a satisfying sexual relationship.” Relationship”. ‘, and before you have children or a decent income.
I must confess that Clare does a disproportionate amount of the housework in our house, as she frequently reminds me.
She gets particularly annoyed when she feels like I take what she’s doing for granted—and that’s reflected in the research.
“Feeling valued and believing that your spouse values you directly affects how you feel about your marriage, how committed you are to it, and how you think it will last,” reads one University of Georgia study 2016 Data from 468 married couples.
One of the biggest points of contention in any marriage is when one partner feels they are doing a disproportionate amount of the housework
Gratitude was measured by assessing the extent to which people felt valued and recognized by their partners when they did something nice for them.
The researchers concluded that feeling appreciated is not only the most important indicator of a successful marriage, but it can also protect a marriage during tough economic times.
But gratitude is not enough – you have to articulate it.
When I discussed this article with friends, one said that while she was pleased that her husband bought her flowers, she wished he would give them to her instead of leaving them on the kitchen table, saying, “These are for all the beautiful things you do to make me happy.’
AVOID INFIDELITY, THE DEAL BREAKER
Cheating is a common reason couples break up — and a 2018 study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology revealed some interesting ways to spot a potential cheater.
The researchers followed 233 married couples for almost four years and asked them to record intimate details of their relationship, including whether they had cheated.
At the beginning of the study, everyone was asked to look at photos of attractive men or women, while the researchers measured how long they stared at them.
Those who looked away faster than average were nearly 50 percent less likely to have an affair later than those who stared.
Psychologist Jim McNulty, who led the study, says that while this may be unconscious, there is evidence that if you are aware that you are vulnerable to temptation, you can take steps to prevent it.
Here you go. According to scientific research, some of the secrets to a happy marriage include defying infidelity, smiling, expressing gratitude, and maybe having a secret stash of chocolate.
You can curse them when you cough or sneeze, but viruses aren’t all bad news:
Some viruses, called phages, attack and kill bacteria and have been shown to work even against antibiotic-resistant forms. Last January, for example, doctors in Belgium reported they had used phages to successfully treat a bomb victim who had a leg infection that nothing else could match.
Phages are also used in the UK to treat non-healing diabetic foot ulcers.
Other promising areas include using viruses for gene therapy and destroying cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed.
We turn killers into cures.
Beware of this risk when swimming in cold water…
I love swimming in the sea – aside from the pleasure of being in the sea, regular immersion in cold water, whether it’s a quick swim or a cold shower, can improve your mood and boost your immune system.
But there are also dangers.
Last week I went swimming in Cornwall at the same spot where my memory was wiped three years ago.
Clare and I swam for a few minutes before we decided to race each other back to shore. I remember thinking, “I’m definitely going to win” – and then it was all blank.
The next thing I remember, I was in the ER. According to the A&E consultant, I had transient global amnesia, memory loss caused by cold water swimming, and that it would almost certainly return to normal within 24 hours.
If you plan on continuing to swim in the sea when the weather gets colder (which I do), be sure to take a friend with you in case you get into trouble
It is said that transient global amnesia is rare, affecting around one in 10,000 people in the UK each year, but perhaps it is not as rare as we think because when I first wrote about it I heard from a number of people who had done it had similar experiences.
It happened to a close friend of mine less than a month ago while she was swimming in a river.
One theory is that being in cold water can alter blood flow to a part of the brain called the hippocampus, which is essential for storing memories.
So if you plan on continuing to swim in the sea when the weather gets colder (which I do), be sure to take a friend with you in case you get into trouble.
Many students can not only absorb knowledge, but also expect to breathe polluted air. A 2021 study suggests that 98 per cent of state primary and secondary schools in London and 24 per cent outside the city are in areas that regularly have over-safe levels.
But trees can reduce student exposure: Lancaster University researchers have installed ‘tredges’ (trees managed as a man-high hedge) at three primary schools in Manchester and have just found that western red cedar is the most successful at reducing air pollution – because its leaves are covered with tiny wavy protrusions that trap dirt particles, which are then washed away by the rain.
An ingeniously cheap and effective way to improve air quality and protect children’s lungs.