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  • Writer's pictureAmos Gdalyahu

A successful relationship

It's possible to determine who will be popular with the audience, but it's impossible to know who will be a good match for whom. It turns out that what people say they want in relationships or what they say they absolutely don't want doesn't necessarily affect their practical choices. For example, people were asked about the characteristics they absolutely wouldn't tolerate in their partner, then they were introduced to someone who had at least two of the qualities they said they couldn't stand, still about 70% of the people chose to go out with those who had the deal breakers. In fact, even the most sophisticated algorithms that check for compatibility based on various personality traits fail to predict who will be attracted to whom. Among other things, because what people say theoretically doesn't really matter to them in real life. But... that's less important than what we think!

In the end, what matters for the success of a relationship is less the personal parameters of those involved and more the relationship they build with each other. This is based on the following section. In a comprehensive study, unprecedentedly in the field of social sciences, more than 80 researchers joined forces and shared over 40 databases on which they had previously conducted research separately. The joint work allowed them to obtain data from about 22,000 couples (!) who were asked about their relationships over time (on average over a year). They used artificial intelligence to avoid making any assumptions beforehand and let the computer find what factors contribute to successful relationships. Moreover, they also pre-determined the way they would analyze the data (which means they didn't draw the target around the arrows). Indeed, the research was published in a prestigious scientific journal: The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) of the US.

And the results? What made relationships successful was, first and foremost, how committed they felt their partners was to the relationship, followed by mutual evaluation, sexual satisfaction, how much they thought they made their partner happy, and only lastly, how frequently they fought . These were the factors that best predicted the success of relationships: not compatibility between personality types, not how attractive, intelligent, or wealthy people were. Personal characteristics also contributed, but to a lesser extent than the dynamics built from the relationship system.

In terms of personal characteristics, the thing that had the greatest influence was how much people felt satisfied from their life. The next thing was how much they leaned towards a negative mood state - depression. This shows, as in previous studies, that it is not the relationship that brings happiness, but rather happiness that brings the relationship. It's kind of funny that the most important factor is the thought on the other one commitment. You could think that people would say I want him/her period and therefore I would strive to make this relationship work. Rather, if they feel the other would strive to make it work they will be on-board. With agreement to that, in another study, Dr. John Gottman showed that he could amazingly predict which couples will eventually separate after watching a quarter of an hour of their arguments. Couples who knew how to reconcile stayed together. 70% of arguments are not can not be solved anyway. The question that determines the future of the relationship is how the couples come out of the argument: whether when one of them is fed up with arguing, they succeed in appeasing the other with a gesture of kindness? Will the gesture be accepted? In other words, what is the dynamic of the relationship that they have developed. It's not so much who we are in the relationship that matters, but the dynamic that we build. If something in personality does matter, then it is worth choosing people who are generally satisfied with their lives (and it's also worthwhile for us to be in that state ourselves).

In summary: for the success of a relationship, what matters is the dynamic that we build. In the words of Prof. Jeoff McDonald, Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto, it is not about finding the ideal partner but rather being the ideal partner (2). If something in personality does matter, then it is worth choosing people who are generally satisfied with their lives (and it's also worthwhile for us to be in that state ourselves). Additionally, Dr. John Gottman's research showed that couples who knew how to reconcile stayed together, and the question that determines the future of the relationship is how couples come out of arguments. This is a short post which is focused on the PNAS study, there's way more to say about attraction considering attachment figures theory, synchrony, and associating a partner with joy and with activation of motivation. I also have my own hypothesis. All will be explained on my course and in separate posts. If you are interested stay tuned!


3. John Gutmann's book I highly recommend "The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work"

Image by Solie Jordan from Pixabay

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