Note: This post by Mariana Ashley sheds some interesting light into what makes a marriage fulfilling.  More importantly, it may give you something to do to make your marriage more engaged and happy.  Be generous with your wife or husband!Be Generous!

Often, a happily married couple seems like a mystery.

How is it that Mr. and Mrs. X seem to get along so well, seem to work together to make their partnership work, and are somehow, after so many years, still deeply in love?

While there is certainly no set magic formula for a successful marriage, researchers have long tried to figure out the basic characteristics that make up the majority of healthy marriages.

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The latest of this body of research suggests that, of all things, generosity plays an instrumental part in happy marital relationships.

Is Generosity Better Than Sex?

The New York Times recently reported on this research, conducted by the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project. Over 2,000 married men and women took a test to determine how generous they were to their partners.

Some of the questions asked of participants included:

  • “How often do you perform small acts of kindness to your partner (like making them coffee in the morning)?”
  • “How often do you forgive your partner for his or her mistakes and failings?”
  •  “How often do express respect and admiration to your partner?”
  • “How often do express affection and love to your partner?”

The results of the survey showed that of those who scored above average on the generosity test, 50 percent reported being “very happy”, while of those who scored below average, only 14 percent reported being “very happy.”

These findings were published in the University of Virginia’s State of Our Unions report, which looks at different factors that affect marriages and families in the United States.

Great, So What Can You Do About It?

So now that we know how important a role generosity can play in having a happy marriage, more important than even communication and satisfying sex, what can we do to further implement generosity into our married lives?

For starters, it’s important to remember that true generosity means going above and beyond. That is to say, many couples have already understood duties that they carry out, but doing something extra on a daily basis—even something as small as making a cup of coffee.

Compliments and expressions of physical affection are also very important aspects of generosity. Especially when a married couple has been together for several years, these little tokens expressing love are often forgotten in the hustle and bustle of daily stress from working or raising kids.

Compliments and expressions of love work best when they are specific. For example, it’s quite normal to say “I love you” or “you look nice today,” but going above and beyond these automatic phrases by complimenting specific actions and character traits demonstrates that you care and that you pay attention.

Whenever we think of generosity, there may be an inclination to equate generosity with substantial expense. But as the University of Virginia research shows, and perhaps many of your own experiences suggest, rewarding generosity, the kind that keeps marriages happily intact, is about taking time out for the little things in life.

What have you done for your spouse lately that’s made him or her feel special and appreciated? Please share in the comments.

And if you need some ideas, be sure to check out these 74 simple things!

Mariana Ashley is a freelance writer who particularly enjoys writing about online colleges. She loves receiving reader feedback, which can be directed to mariana.ashley031


About the author 


Dustin Riechmann created Engaged Marriage to help other married couples live a life they love (especially) when they feel too busy to make it happen. He has many passions, including sharing ways to enjoy an awesome marriage in 15 minutes a day, but his heart belongs with his wife Bethany and their three young kids.

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  1. Wow, looks like more confirmation of Dr. John Gottman’s magic relationship formula. Accordingly, couples who are the happiest and healthiest relationship wise, have 5 positive interactions for every 1 negative interaction.

    I love the practical, action-oriented implication of measuring “generosity”. It’s kind of like the healthy verbal behavior in effective couple-communication, of frequently “expressed gratitude.”

    A great post, – Thank you.

  2. Excellent post, Dustin. Thank you so much for sharing this research. It makes so much sense, and it shows that a happy marriage is quite simple to attain. God help us be so generous.

    1. Thanks, Debi! Yes, generosity seems so simple on the surface, yet many of us struggle to make it happen consistently in our marriage. God help us indeed!


  3. This article is an echo of Gary Chapman’s “5 Love Languages”.

    Thanks for the reminder!

    Gotta go, taking my wife out for dinner…actually her boss is shouting.

  4. I agree it’s the small acts of generosity that can propel a marriage forward. Just like it’s the little things that can slowly tear it apart. Be mindful of your actions and treat your spouse well!

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  6. “Is Generosity Better Than Sex?”

    According to the survey being discussed, the answer is NO!. Both were importnat, but sexual satisfaction was a better predictor of martial happiness and not getting divorced than generosity.

    If you think about it, you really can’t be very generous and yet have your spouse be sexually unsatisfied. Real generosity is extended first and foremost where the other person wants it.

    1. Thanks, Paul. Coming from The Generous Husband himself, I appreciate your input. I agree that being sexually generous definitely applies here as well.


  7. I’m going to have to agree with Paul on this one. Can a person be defined as generous when they are stingy in another area with their spouse?

  8. I agree. And most of the time, it’s the simplest acts of generosity that your partner appreciates the most. And although there are so many other factors that come into play when it comes to happy and lasting marriages — sex and sexual satisfaction being one of them — studies and articles like this become a good reminder for the rest of us to take care of our relationships and treat our partners well.

    1. Thanks so much, Jan. I think you summed it up nicely – we just need to treat our partners well and that alone will go so far in sustaining a happy, fulfilling relationship – and life!


  9. My hubby and I make it a sort of game to see who can outdo each other in kindness. Admittedly, he wins most the time!

  10. I actually just saw the movie FireProof and did the 41 or 42 day strategy.. the first few days of thoughtfulness and caring small things I did for my husband went very, very far. He thanked me reluctantly and wondered what was behind it. He actually asked me and I said just because I love you… It’s been working a few months now; I’m on day 97 and counting…. great advice!

    1. Wow, Cat! We love Fireproof, and it’s awesome to hear you’re putting it into practice! Let me know if you’d ever like to write a guest post here to share your experience.


  11. Interesting research… I knew generosity was important in a marriage, but I didn’t realise how highly regarded it was. I think it’s time I started doing more things for my wife!

  12. Very nice article. I believe that John Gottman in several of his books comments on the same things. We need to be thoughful and gererous with our spouse. I refer to this as selfless serving. When we get out of thinking soley of ourselves and begin to think of serving our spouse, we open up doors to deeply bonding and intimacy.

    Thanks again for your post.

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