Childless couples 'have happier marriages -- and tea beats intimacy'
For centuries, having children has been held up by many as the ultimate source of fulfilment and meaning in life.
However, according to a major new study into relationships, childless couples have happier marriages.
Childless men and women are more satisfied with their relationships and more likely to feel valued by their partner, the research project by the Open University found.
But researchers also discovered that women without children were the least happy with life overall, whereas mothers were happier than any other group, even if their relationships faltered.
The study, involving interviews and surveys with more than 5,000 people in the UK of all ages, statuses and sexual orientations over a two-year period, will be presented at the British Library this week.
Saying "thank you" and giving compliments emerged as one of the most important factors in keeping a relationship healthy across all groups.
Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, the survey also found that people who had been in a long-term relationship before were more likely to know how to sustain their next relationship.
Dr Jacqui Gabb, a senior lecturer in social policy at the Open University who led the survey, said: "This is a shift away from the idea that they are just failed relationships to be put in a cupboard and forgotten about. It shows they have learnt something through them, therefore it can be an enriching experience."
And men who make their partner a cup of tea or breakfast in bed are doing more to build a lifetime bond than those who lavish flowers or expensive gifts on them, according to the study.
Women ranked having a cup of tea made for them ahead of having their opinions valued and well ahead of sexual intimacy.