On their wedding day, husbands and wives all believe they’re completely committed to the relationship. So, why do almost half of all marriages end in divorce? 

The scientists at UCLA’s Relationship Institute wanted to find out. So, they tracked 200 newlywed couples every year until their 11th anniversary, evaluating their marital satisfaction, and their willingness to put their partner’s needs ahead of their own. 

By the end of the study, 20 percent of the couples had split. And it’s no surprise that they were the same couples who reported declining levels of satisfaction. But the couples that split up also showed an increase in selfish behavior. And even when they were going through a divorce, the couples insisted they’d been committed to their marriage. And instead, blamed outside forces - like financial pressures - for creating the distance between them. In other words, they were committed to the relationship as long as it stayed easy. But during challenging times, their selfish behavior led to an “every person for themselves” attitude that ultimately ended the marriage.

But the happiest couples had an entirely different approach. They showed a decrease in the amount of selfish behavior. Their priority was preserving the relationship. And because they pulled together as a team, the same events that triggered divorce in selfish couples actually strengthened the bond between the unselfish ones. 

Bottom line: Psychologist Dr. Thomas Bradbury was senior author of the study. And he says that real commitment to a marriage requires putting the relationship first, and your needs second.