The quality of your long-term relationship impacts your physical and mental health, mortality, job productivity, and your children’s well-being. In other words, it majorly impacts your life. But what predicts relationship quality?
Researchers set out to answer that question by conducting a massive study examining 43 datasets consisting of 11,196 couples. The results were published on July 27, 2020 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers considered variables specific to an individual (like their personality, age, or attachment style) and variables specific to the relationship (like judgments about the relationship, relationship length, or sexual frequency).
They found that “People’s own judgments about the relationship itself—such as how satisfied and committed they perceived their partners to be, and how appreciative they felt toward their partners—explained approximately 45% of their current satisfaction” (Joel et al. 2020, 1). The results demonstrated that the top five relationship variables contributing to relationship quality are: perceived partner commitment, appreciation for their partner, sexual satisfaction, perceived partner satisfaction, and low conflict in the relationship. Whether couples are married, living together, or have kids, doesn’t make much difference in terms of relationship quality (7).
So, what does this mean for couples? If you are dating, it means you should aim for a relationship where you appreciate each other, are committed to each other, and don’t fight much. If those things are already a problem, then consider whether you really are a good match. Married? Think good thoughts and express them to your partner. Appreciate them. Tell them how happy you feel when they are around. Be intimate. Don’t bicker or nag about inconsequential things. Remember, it’s the little things you do to show them that you love them, are committed to them, and are grateful for them that will improve the quality of your relationship.
Joel et al. “Machine learning uncovers the most robust self-report predictors of relationship quality across 43 longitudinal couples studies.” 2020. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1917036117