14/08/2014 16:57 BST | Updated 20/05/2015 10:12 BST

Can It Be True? Couples Without Kids Are Happier Than Parents

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Family in bed holding newborn baby

Here's a question: were you and your partner happier before you had children compared to now?

In other words, did the freedom to do what the hell you liked give you more contentment than the ups and downs, joys and rewards, pleasure and burden of parenthood?

Well, according to a new survey couples who don't have children are happier than those of us who do.

It can't possibly be true, can it, as I was saying to my childfree friends who are currently backpacking around the beaches of Thailand?

The study, by the Open University - which echoes findings from a similar report two years ago - found that people without children are more satisfied with their relationships and more likely to feel valued by their partner than couples with children.

More than 5,000 people of all ages, statuses and sexual orientations were interviewed and asked to rate the quality of their relationship and those without children emerged as happier overall.

For both men and women, those who did not have children ranked the quality of their relationship more highly than those who did.

They also did significantly more to 'maintain' their relationship, such as taking time to go out together or talk, than those with children.

Yet, when asked to rate how happy they were with their lives in general there was a gender divide.

Mothers were happier overall than any other group, while childless women were the least happy.

By contrast men with children emerged slightly less happy than those without.

The study also revealed that one of the secrets of Britain's strongest marriages is the humble cup of tea. And it uncovered a hidden passion among couples for closing the curtains, putting on some music and dancing together.

Yet, across all categories one simple action emerged as the most important element in strong relationships – saying 'thank you'.

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What's left of the old me after children?

20 things you miss about life before children