Historical study shows what makes a successful relationship


Whether you find a potential mate by swiping right into an app or flipping through stacks of Netflix-style “Indian Matchmaking” bios, there may be some wisdom to you in searcher results.

Scientists have sought to understand what makes a good relationship for decades. But most of these studies only measured a few variables at a time, Samantha Joel, lead author of the study and an assistant professor at Western University in London, Ont., told CNN.

Joel and his colleagues analyzed information on more than 11,000 couples, drawn from 43 datasets that tracked these partnerships for an average of a year, to determine how well they could predict relationship quality and what metrics would work best. to predict that

What they found is that your own judgment of your relationship – meaning, how satisfied you feel with your partner or how much you appreciate your partner – says more about the quality of your relationship. than on one or the other of your personalities.“When it comes to a fulfilling relationship, the partnership you build is more important than the partner you choose,” Joel wrote in an email to CNN.

In other words, don’t focus so much on whether a person matches your type or whether they tick all of your boxes. Instead, think about how you engage with each other and if you’re happy with your relationship.

What makes a good relationship

And it turns out that some metrics can predict the quality of a relationship more reliably than others.

Researchers assessed the quality of relationships by looking at individual characteristics, including age, gender, income, and personality traits, and characteristics of the relationship itself, i.e. affection, conflict, support, etc.

A person’s own perception of their relationship accounted for about 45% of their current satisfaction with their relationship at the start of a study, and about 18% at the end of the study.

Specifically, the relationship characteristics that best predicted a person’s satisfaction were:

  1. Perceived partner commitment
  2. Appreciation
  3. Sexual satisfaction
  4. Perceived partner satisfaction
  5. Conflict

A person’s individual characteristics explained about 21% of their satisfaction with their relationship at the start of the study, and about 12% at the end.

The individual characteristics that best predicted a person’s relationship satisfaction were:

  1. Life satisfaction
  2. Negative effect
  3. Depression
  4. Avoidance of attachment
  5. Attachment anxiety

Interestingly, their partner’s personality or their partner’s perception of the relationship seemed to matter relatively little, Joel said.

And while factors like your personality or whether or not you have depression or anxiety may very well affect the quality of your relationship, building a relationship that you feel satisfied and secure in could help. ‘prevail over these things, the study authors wrote.

“The fact that individual characteristics predicted the quality of relationships but offered no unique predictive power beyond relationship factors suggests that individual characteristics matter, but their effects on relationship quality are largely attributable to their effects on dynamics. relationships, ”Justin Lavner, a psychologist at the University of Georgia who was not involved in the study, wrote in an email to CNN.

What the researchers were unable to determine, however, is how the quality of a relationship might change over time.

The study also relied on participants’ self-reports to reach these conclusions, and Joel said future research should explore whether the results would be different if these characteristics were measured by observational or physiological studies, as well. only if the results apply to couples outside the west.

Lavner added that it would be helpful to know to what extent external factors, such as financial strains or external stresses, affect the quality of a relationship.

What it means for your love life

There are a few takeaways here to apply to your own life, experts said.

On the one hand, pay attention to the dynamics of your relationship.

“It seems to me that the relationship is more than the sum of its parts,” Joel said. “It is this relationship dynamic itself, rather than the individuals who make up the relationship, that seems to be most important to the quality of the relationship. ”

It’s also worth paying attention to your current feelings about the relationship.

“Another take home message is that while these perceptions were the most predictive of the quality of the relationship measured at the same time, the same pattern was found during follow-up,” Lavner said, suggesting that what you feel now can be somewhat diagnostic of how you will feel later. ”


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