Think a happy relationship is defined by a high level of emotional closeness between two partners? Think again.

After surveying 732 men and women over two years, researchers at Columbia University discovered that the happiest couples were not necessarily those who reported feeling very close to each other. Rather, those whose "actual" level of closeness was similar to their "ideal" level of closeness were the most satisfied with their relationships, no matter how close they actually were.

The participants were asked questions about their current and ideal relationship closeness, relationship satisfaction, commitment, break-up thoughts and symptoms of depression. Fifty-seven percent of the participants reported feeling too much distance between themselves and their partner; 37 percent were content with the level of closeness in their relationships, and five percent reported feeling too close.

But regardless of how emotionally close participants said they were with their partners, poorer relationship quality and symptoms of depression were correlated with a higher "closeness discrepancy" -- that is, the difference between what they were actually experiencing and what they wanted to experience.

Participants who, over the two-year study period, experienced a greater alignment in actual and ideal closeness also experienced greater relationship satisfaction and mental health quality.

“It’s best not to make too many assumptions about what constitutes a healthy relationship,” said study author Dr. David Frost in a press release. “Rather, we need to hear from people about how close they are in their relationships and how that compares to how close they’d ideally like to be.”

Couples who enjoy closeness will be glad to know that previous research has shown the importance of cuddling, talking and sex in relationships.

Click through the slideshow below for more interesting findings about marriage.

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  • Online Gaming Can Hurt Your Marriage

    According to a Brigham Young University study, couples reported <a href="http://healthland.time.com/2012/02/16/is-online-gaming-messing-up-your-marriage/">lower marital satisfaction</a> when one spouse's gaming interfered with bedtime routines. Seventy-five percent of gamers' spouses wished their partners would put more effort into their marriages; however, when both spouses gamed, a majority reported greater satisfaction in their relationships.

  • The "Honeymoon Phase" Is A Myth

    It turns out couples are happiest <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/04/marriage-research_n_2234804.html?utm_hp_ref=marriage">AFTER their first year of marriage</a>, according to an Australian study. Newlyweds were found to have a lower happiness score than couples who had been married longer. Researcher Melissa Weinberg attributed this to a "wedding hangover," or the depressed feeling couples get when the wedding is over and the marriage begins.

  • Getting Angry Can Help Your Relationship

    Florida State University researchers discovered that short-term angry discussions can <a href="http://articles.nydailynews.com/2012-08-21/news/33307414_1_relationships-forgiveness-successful-marriage">actually be beneficial</a>. Getting angry can help signal that certain behavior from your partner is unacceptable, said lead researcher James McNulty.

  • Cohabitating Couples Shown To Be Happier Than Married Couples

    A study released in January found that while married couples exhibited health gains (most likely due to marriage benefits such as shared health plans), unmarried cohabitating couples experienced <a href="http://news.health.com/2012/01/23/living-together-may-be-mentally-healthier-than-marriage-study/" target="_hplink">greater happiness and self-esteem</a>. Clarification: Language has been amended in this slide to represent more accurately the findings of the report.

  • The Later You Have Sex, The Better Your Relationships

    Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found that having sexual intercourse at a later age corresponded with <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/10/19/virginity-and-marriage-_n_1981755.html?just_reloaded=1">less dissatisfaction with relationships</a> in adulthood. Higher education level and household income also corresponded to a later age of first sexual experience.

  • Interracial Marriage Rates And Acceptance Rising

    Not only are <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2012/02/16/us/interracial-marriage/index.html">more interracial couples marrying</a>, but interracial marriage is more widely accepted than ever before. In 2010, 15 percent of new marriages in the U.S. were between spouses of different races; in 1980, only 6.7 percent of marriages were interracial.

  • Married People Are Healthier, Live Longer Than Singles

    <a href="http://cleveland.cbslocal.com/2012/11/14/study-married-couples-live-longer-healthier-lives-than-singles/">Studies show</a> that married couples experience lower levels of cancer, heart disease, depression and stress. The health benefits are even more pronounced for marrieds than for couples who are simply cohabiting.

  • Young People Expect Marriages To Last

    A survey found that 86 percent of single and married people aged 18-29 <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/17/marriage-expectations_n_1784371.html">expect their marriages</a> to last a lifetime. Researcher Jeffrey Jensen Arnett told HuffPost that young people tend to have a romantic view of marriage and go into marriage determined to make it work.

  • Married Women Drink More Than Single Women

    A <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/20/marriage-alcohol-study-wives-drink-single-women_n_1810133.html">study on marriage and alcohol</a> found that women drink more after getting married, possibly because they are influenced by their husbands (on average, men drink more than women). Men, on the other hand, were found to drink less after getting hitched.

  • Son-In-Law Key To Successful Marriage

    Here's another reason to get along with your in-laws -- unless you're a woman, that is. A <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/27/in-laws-and-marriage_n_2199637.html">26-year longitudinal study</a> found that when a husband reported having a close relationship with his wife's parents, the couple's risk of divorce decreased by 20 percent. Conversely, when a wife reported having a close relationship with her husband's parents, the couple's risk of divorce increased by 20 percent.

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