As couples grow old together, their interdependence heightens. Often, they become each other’s primary source of physical and emotional support. Long-term marriages have a profound impact on health and well-being, but benefits depend on relationship quality.
A new study from the University of Illinois examines the dynamics of long-term relationships through spatial proximity. The researchers find that when partners are close to each other, their heart rates synchronize in complex patterns of interaction.
“Relationship researchers typically ask people how they’re doing and assume they can recall properly and give meaningful answers. But as couples age and have been together for a long time, they laugh when we ask them how satisfied or how committed they are. When they have been married for 30 or 40 years, they feel that indicates commitment in itself,” says Brian Ogolsky, associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at the U of I and lead author on the study.