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Five Keys to Keep Your Valentine's Heart

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The research team analyzed 35 studies that included more than 12,000 participants, identifying key terms related to successful relationships. They gave more weight in the total analysis to the research with the greatest number of participants, and focused on factors that were tied to certain behaviors in the relationship. The study appeared recently in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

One expert had concerns about the research. Lara Kammrath, an assistant professor of psychology at Wake Forest University, in Winston-Salem, N.C., pointed out that the study only showed correlations. "So, it could totally be the case that people who are happy in their relationships do these things, but it doesn't mean doing these things makes your relationship better," she said.

Yet Kammrath noted that correlational studies can be useful in helping people diagnose their own relationships. "If these aren't happening, it probably means your relationship is pretty distressed," she said. "You might want to start trying them."

Kammrath said it would be interesting to know whether these five relationship strategies feel like work to people. "In a really great relationship, it doesn't feel like effort at all, but is just rewarding and satisfying," she said. "When you're in a good relationship, there's actually no effort involved; you do these things even when you're really tired."

As for Valentine's Day, Kammrath said presents of any kind turn out to be the least important factor in relationship satisfaction. "Instead, being verbally affectionate, sharing your thoughts, giving your time -- these turn out to be more valued than gifts."

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about healthy relationships.

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