The key to happiness is conversing with your partner. Recently, Psychological Science published a study saying that people are happier when they spend more time discussing meaningful topics than engaging in small talk. Seventy-nine college students had their conversations recorded and analyzed by researchers, who distinguished between chit-chat about the food or the weather from discussions about philosophy, education, or religion. Subjects who reported the greatest amount of satisfaction spent only 10 percent of their conversation on small talk, while the unhappiest subjects kept 28.3 of their talking time in the shallow end.
Granted, the study is still in its infancy, and researchers have yet to conclude whether people are happy because they can talk deeply, or whether they talk deeply because they are happy. Either way, we started thinking about relationships and how closely we converse with our partners. In an interview with The New York Times, researcher Matthias Mehl said,
"By engaging in meaningful conversations, we manage to impose meaning on an otherwise pretty chaotic world. And interpersonally, as you find this meaning, you bond with your interactive partner, and we know that interpersonal connection and integration is a core fundamental foundation of happiness." Related: Having The Tough Talks With Men
Heck, what's more chaotic than being in love? One of the perks of being in a relationship is being able to discuss subjects you avoided during the early stages of dating. Among the scores of substantive topics people discuss, we've come up with 10 that we believe couples should relish during heart-to-hearts:
1. Embarrassing moments . If you can't share the awkward, American Pie -worthy moments that occurred throughout high school with your boyfriend, you can you tell them to? Don't be afraid to broach the subject, if you haven't already. We wouldn't be surprised if his are more horrifying than yours.
2. Political viewpoints. How do you feel about the freshly-approved health care bill? You don't have to agree with each other, although it would certainly help. A good relationship allows both parties to discuss their own philosophies without taking the opposition personally.
3. Fears and insecurities. By fears, we don't mean your phobia of earthworms. We're talking about things that make you wake up with gray hairs. What worries you? What do you want to improve in yourself? What are your past skeletons? In being vulnerable, you risk judgement, but more importantly, you chance being understood.
4. Childhood. Ask your partner what he or she was like as a kid. Did he make friends easily? What kind of games did he like to play? Did he have trouble in school? Childhood memories make for fun conversations, but they can also lend insight into how your guy became the person he is today.
5. Past relationships. This is a touchy one because no one wants to hear the person they're with spouting sonnets about an ex. There is, of course, a difference between longing for (or being bitter over) the past and simply acknowledging what happened. With enough practice, seasoned, happy couples learn how to address why past relationships ended without inandvertently comparing their current partner to an old flame. Related: How To Ace The 'What Are We?' Talk
6. Family life. Knowing a person's upbringing and relationship with his or her parents is paramount to understanding his current attitude toward family. If you're even slightly contemplating a future with this person, it might help to ask how well he gets along with his parents. Why does he resent his mother? Why is he closer to his sisters than to his brothers? How well can he handle family gatherings?
7. Current events. Thanks to the overflow of information, it's nearly impossible to stay up-to-date on everything going on around us. Here's where teamwork comes into play: Ask your partner about his interests, be they economics or regional politics, and see if you can't learn a thing or two. Who knows, maybe you'll help him develop an interest in international affairs or science news.
9. TV and movies. Compared to politics and personal fears, entertainment might seem pretty shallow, but Dr. Mehl actually classified discussions about movies in the "deep" category, given that people focused on character motivations and plots rather than on, say, the hot leading actors.
10. The future. Need we ask what's scarier than the future? While we're not saying you should pressure your partner into talking about his plans for marriage and children, we do believe that whether he openly talks about them or you ask directly, you should know his dreams, goals, and aspirations. What is he working toward? What drives him to succeed? Where does he see himself in five years? Someone who desires growth and is not afraid of the unknown is surely dynamic enough to deserve you.
Written by Denise Ngo for YourTango.com.
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