A rose is still a rose

There are numerous reasons why people remain in intimate relationships, as well as numerous reasons why we do not.

Certain variables are environmental, such as whether or not alternative options are accessible and the cultural environment; others are connected to personality, such as attachment type or self-concept clarity; and yet others are about the relationship itself and the dynamics of the couple.

The characteristics of our partners are important to those of us who are interested in a long-term relationship. The researchers Apostolou and Christoforou point out that the practices of dating and mating have their roots in evolutionary theory. Because humans, in contrast to most other species, take a long time to completely grow and require a great deal of effort to nurture, there is a survival advantage to long-term pair bonding in order to optimize parental commitment. Partners in close relationships not only have more opportunity to offer direct resources to their children, but they also have more opportunities to receive help from their combined extended families and from other partners.

Investigating the characteristics that humans seek in long-term romantic partners

What characteristics make a long-term intimate partner the most desirable? Apostolou and Chrisoforou (2021), in their recent work published in Personality and Individual Differences, describe what they discovered when they polled respondents about the attributes, they valued in someone who was willing to make a long-term commitment. They carried out two research studies. An extensive range of ideal partner characteristics was identified in the first study, which was then refined in the second study into a few key factors that could be considered as a whole.

Researchers conducted two studies:

The first used an open-ended online questionnaire filled by 187 people and the second used in-depth interviews with a smaller set of participants to determine what characteristics of a partner drove participants to stay in an intimate relationship. During a 45-minute semi-structured interview, participants in the open-ended group were asked to write down as many characteristics as they could think of, while those in the in-depth group discussed current and prior relationships, as well as what encouraged them to stay in the relationship.

Responses were categorized by graduate students who were taught in the process. They worked independently to construct categories, then pooled their findings to ensure agreement and consistency. They discovered a total of 75 characteristics.

The second study included 1,189 individuals, 675 of whom were women and 511 of whom were males, who were either married or unmarried and in a relationship at the time of participation. Participants were asked to rate their current partner on each of the 75 items from the first study, as well as to complete a measure of relationship satisfaction called the Relationship Assessment Scale. They were also asked how much potential they believed their current relationship had to last a long time and how difficult they believed it was to maintain the relationship.

These data were evaluated using statistical methodologies in order to find large bucket categories of desired partner characteristics as well as relationships between relationship satisfaction, partner characteristics, and demographic variables such as age and gender.

The 75 comprehensive characteristics were reduced to 11 defining factors

11 Characteristics of an Ideal Partner

I've made a commitment to you

Well-off

It provides me with sexual satisfaction

He is willing to make concessions

Dependable and reliable

A competent cook and housekeeper

Positive

It's enjoyable to hang together with

Has a good relationship with friends and family

Sensitive and romantic in nature

Interests in common

The most important findings about personal relationships

The relationships between these characteristics were significant in some cases. First and most important, two characteristics became increasingly crucial the longer the relationship lasted: being faithful and trustworthy, as well as getting along well with friends and family. Faithful and trustworthy behavior, sexual satisfaction, commitment, and being enjoyable to be with were all elements connected with expectations for a more sustainable relationship as demonstrated by increasing relationship satisfaction.

As an example, individuals who trusted their spouses reported higher levels of satisfaction, which led them to expect that they would remain together for a longer period of time. Being able to maintain positive relationships with friends and family was found to be associated with higher long-term prospects, regardless of current relationship happiness.

Smoother relationships, defined as those with fewer perceived problems, were associated with factors such as being faithful and trustworthy, being committed, having common interests, and being willing to make compromises, whereas being well-off and being a good cook/housekeeper were associated with the expectation of having a more difficult time maintaining the relationship.

Fun to be with and sexual satisfaction were found to be associated with shorter duration relationships—this does not necessarily imply that they are responsible for the end of the relationship, but it does suggest that they are more important factors early on in a couple's relationship, and that they become less important as time goes on for many couples.

Not into looks

Surprisingly, while the researchers expected to find a component associated to physical beauty in this group, they were unable to find one. While physical appearance is crucial in mate selection, it is possible that in this group of persons who were already in relationships, the looks box had already been ticked.

Finally, the study discovered that the longer people had been in a relationship, the greater the likelihood that they would stay together for a longer period of time and the fewer obstacles they anticipated in maintaining the connection.

Despite the fact that this research verifies much of what people predict about what we want in long-term partners, it also adds subtlety to our knowledge of which elements become more significant with time and which factors fall by the wayside. In order to traverse the hard and gratifying experiences afforded by intimacy, we must first understand the general partner characteristics that contribute to relationship pleasure and durability. Only then can we reflect on our own characteristics, preferences, and priorities.

 

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