relationships

AI Analysed Over 11,000 Couples to Find What Makes Relationships Work

“It suggests that the person we choose is not nearly as important as the relationship we build.”
29 July 2020, 2:00am
couples
Photo courtesy of Dương Nhân / Pexels

Most of us might’ve spent long nights wondering about the one that got away or about the relationship that turned sour even though we thought it was going great. Romantic relationships are, after all, a very complicated affair. And anyone who’s done their fair share of dating has either said or been told, “It’s not you, it’s me”—the most clichéd breakup sentence ever—to justify why the relationship hadn’t worked out. Turns out, it really wasn’t them (or you). Now, a first-of-its kind Artificial Intelligence (AI) study published on July 27 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science seems to have finally figured out what makes a relationship work.

According to an analysis spanning 43 studies and 11,196 couples from countries including USA, Canada, Israel, New Zealand, Switzerland and the Netherlands, the best predictors of relationship quality are the characteristics of the relationship itself. In other words, relationships work because of the life dynamic you build with your partner. 

Since the quality of relationships in our life affects our health and well-being, the study says, a central mission of relationship science is explaining why some romantic relationships thrive more than others. And its analysis reveals that relationship-related characteristics are about 45 percent of the reason you feel satisfaction in a relationship. Your own personality accounts for about 21 percent of the satisfaction, and your partner’s personality only accounts for as little as 5 percent of all satisfaction in a relationship. Over time, the study says, the estimates become smaller, but the hierarchy remains the same: relationship characteristics trumping individual ones.

"It suggests that the person we choose is not nearly as important as the relationship we build," Samantha Joel, the study's first author and the director of the Relationships Decision Lab at Western University told Inverse. Individual characteristics included attributes like income, satisfaction with life, age, or empathy, amongst many others. Relationship characteristics included things like perceived partner satisfaction, affection, power dynamics, or sexual satisfaction. In every relationship, both of these categories will obviously intermingle, but not all traits will have equal sway. 

It seems like having a relationship that works well is less about a flashy dating bio or a seemingly perfect partner, and more about the relationship itself. Added Joel, "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.”

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