It pays to be kind.
One of the secrets to being happy in a relationship is finding a kind person, according to recent research from Michigan State University, which examined the personality traits of more than 2,500 heterosexual couples who have been married roughly 20 years.
Specifically, the researchers found that a partner who is two things — conscientious and agreeable — leads to higher relationship satisfaction. “Being conscientious speaks to a general awareness of being a good partner and responsible–remembering their birthday, doing things they ask, and making an effort to enrich and sustain a relationship,” Bill Chopik, associate professor of psychology and director of MSU’s Close Relationships Lab, told MarketWatch.
As for agreeableness, it “speaks to kindness that you can display to your partner. Agreeable people are less aggressive and more considerate of partners. As a result, their partners are happy with those who are kinder,” he adds.
Meanwhile, people with partners who are neurotic and more extroverted have lower relationship satisfaction. “Highly neurotic people make mountains of molehills–making any fights or relationship problems much worse than they can be (or can even create new ones). Partners of neurotic people are always on edge and that doesn’t translate to a good relationship,” he explains.
“People may want to ask, ‘Are they a nice person?’ ‘Do they have a lot of anxiety?’ Those things matter way more than the fact that two people are introverts and end up together.”
Chopik says they’re “not entirely sure about why extraversion predicted relationship satisfaction” but added that its effect was small. The researchers gave the participants a 15-item personality test to determine personality traits, and determined relationship satisfaction by asking participants this question: How satisfied are you with your marriage or romantic relationship? They also measured life satisfaction and affect.
The researchers also found that having a similar personality to your partner did not predict relationship contentment. “I think the fact that similar couples weren’t happier was among the more shocking findings–I think everyone thinks they should find someone similar to them (and dating companies certainly profit off the idea),” Chopik says.
“People invest a lot in finding someone who’s compatible, but our research says that may not be the end all be all,” Chopik said in a statement. “Instead, people may want to ask, ‘Are they a nice person?’ ‘Do they have a lot of anxiety?’ Those things matter way more than the fact that two people are introverts and end up together,” Chopik added.
These findings could save you time — and money. Single people spend an average of $146 per month on dating, a survey of more than 1,000 people from GiftCards.com last year found. Those in relationships drop $139 per month. And data from Match.com found that the average unmarried person in the U.S. spent $1,596 on dating in 2016.
The good news: Many of us — particularly women — know to look for kindness in a partner. A 2016 survey from dating site Elite Singles found that 81% of women and 62% of men said kindness was a very important trait in a partner.
And there are plenty of other reasons to be kind besides a quality relationship: People who are kind are slightly happier than those who aren’t, a meta-analysis of 21 studies revealed. And being kind may also improve your health.
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