The Secret To Dating Success Isn't Who You Choose But What You Do, Study Says

Ryan Ford 29 Jul 2020

When you're single, it feels like finding the right person to spend more time with - and maybe even the rest of your life with - is an impossible task. Sure, you hear stories of people who hit up the clubs and the apps and actually connect with their perfect person, but for the vast majority of us, that's just a fairy tale.

But, as one huge study shows, holding out for that one diamond-in-the-rough person isn't actually the key to a successful relationship.

Much has been made of the search for a soulmate in pop culture.

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Hey, it's a timeless tale that makes for great TV, whether it's a reality show or the Ross-and-Rachel, on-again off-again romance that spans a few seasons. Audiences eat it up because, well, most of us can see ourselves in it, hunting for our one true love.

However, a large study out of Western University in Canada shows that if you feel like you just can't find your soulmate, it's far from the end of the world for your happiness prospects. In fact, it might even be better.

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It turns out, a successful relationship isn't made in the stars, but by the people in it.

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For the study, researchers at Western's Relationships Decisions Lab examined a huge amount of data gathered from 11,196 couples across 43 different studies, all of whom had been interviewed at least twice at intervals of between two months and four years.

In the end, the successful relationships had much less to do with the characteristics of the individuals involved than the characteristics of the relationship itself.

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It sounds a bit confusing, but basically, the study looked at two angles: the individuals in the relationship, and the relationship as its own entity.

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The characteristics of the individuals in a relationship will absolutely play a role in that relationship's success. Things like income, age, empathy, and life satisfaction will always feed into a relationship's dynamic.

But, as the study found, the characteristics of the relationship's dynamic proved more powerful - things like how partners perceived each other's satisfaction, sexual satisfaction, power dynamics, and affection.

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There were some definite trends the study found as well.

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The study identified the five individual characteristics that most powerfully affect differences in relationship satisfaction between partners: life satisfaction, negative affect (such as feeling distressed or irritable), depression or feelings of hopelessness, attachment anxiety (as in, worrying about the relationship), and attachment avoidance.

The five characteristics of a relationship that influence relationship satisfaction between partners were perceived partner commitment, appreciation of your partner, sexual satisfaction, perceived partner satisfaction, and conflict.

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While individual traits tend to be critical in two people staying together, the relationship they build is what keeps them together long-term.


"The dynamic that you build with someone — the shared norms, the in-jokes, the shared experiences — is so much more than the separate individuals who make up that relationship," the study's lead author Samantha Joel told Inverse.

"Really, it suggests that the person we choose is not nearly as important as the relationship we build."

h/t: Inverse

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