According to an article in the New York Times marriage has changed. People expect modern marriages to be loving, meaningful and satisfying for decades - and that’s a pretty tall order. So a couple of social scientists started trying to figure out what makes successful marriages tick.

Dr. Arthur Aron is the director of the Interpersonal Relationships Lab at Stonybrook University. He says that communication and support may make a marriage last, but they don’t necessarily make marriages happy. After doing a series of tests, he and his colleagues discovered that people who learn and experience new things from their partner are happier and more committed.

It’s a process called “self expansion.” You know when you’re first dating somebody and they introduce you to something you never tried, like wind-surfing or a new type of food. Remember how exhilarating that was? That’s self-expansion, and the more you get that out of a relationship, the better the relationship is.

The experts say self-expansion goes both ways. When you learn and grow from your partner, it not only makes you happy, it also gives them a sense of satisfaction. As you and your partner have new experiences together, you both adopt these new things as part of your identity as a couple, giving you more in common. Dr. Aron says that makes couples less likely to get bored in their relationship and more likely to feel close to their mate. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to see if your relationship is on the right track:

  • Does being with your partner result in you having new experiences?

  • Has knowing your partner made you a better person?

  • Do your partner’s strengths compensate for some of your own weaknesses?

If you’d like to check out the full list of questions, visit http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/31/the-sustainable-marriage-quiz/.