Which Couples Stay Together: What Science Says

What Science Says

Although it may be easier to approach someone with the same background as you, because it gives you immediate things in common to talk about, a similar background is not actually what most people want in a relationship.

A study published in the “Journal of Social and Personal Relationships” in 2002 showed that people rated warmth, openness, humorousness, attractiveness and intelligence as more important than background when considering a long-term relationship. Focus on the lovely qualities a person has, rather than where he or she comes from.

Outside Influences

Although background might not be as important as personality traits, research has shown that external factors do play in role in whether people stay together or not.

According to a study carried out by sociologists at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, college students reported that they were more likely to leave their current relationship in the near future if they began to share less similar values or did fewer leisure activities together. Spending quality time with your boyfriend or girlfriend can ensure you don’t grow apart.

The same research, titled “Influences on College Relationships: Staying Together or Breaking Up?” showed that culture and family background might play a part in whether guys and girls stayed together.

Disapproval of the relationship from either family was a consideration in ending a relationship, as was a growing lack of approval from either partner’s friends. Show your friends and family your boyfriend or girlfriend’s good points, by letting them get to know each other as individuals with unique and wonderful qualities.

Tiny ‘Tells’

There was a most interesting test done by American psychologist John Gottmann that claimed to be able to show in seconds whether you and your partner would eventually stay together or part ways.

Something called ‘micro-expressions’ were first discovered by Haggard and Isaacs in the 1960s. They are tiny facial tics or expressions that only last a maximum of a quarter of a second. When interviewing several people, scientists soon discovered that these expressions often seemed to contradict what a person was saying.

Other scientists soon became interested in how humans use micro-expressions in relationships to conceal our real feelings. It was suggested that these micro-expressions, which seemed to denote the real emotion beneath civility, or keeping up appearances, could indicate whether partners are truly in committed, supportive relationships or not.

Gottmann decided that it was the tiny ‘tells’ that would reveal a couple’s future, possibly including micro-expressions, sweat levels and certain ways of interacting and speaking. He videotaped couples and studied them much more closely than you might ordinarily analyze a partner.

Gottmann decided that even small shows of certain behavioral and emotional states were set to doom a partnership. Contempt was the most destructive way of interacting, followed by defensiveness, stonewalling and criticism.

All partners have arguments and upset each other from time to time — try to watch closely to see if these attitudes are being concealed in minute ways through micro-expressions, gesture or speech, to know if your partnership will last. – Beth Burgess