What makes a relationship last in a pandemic? This expert has the answers

Lifestyle

Perceived partner commitment, appreciation and sexual satisfaction are among the main predictors of a relationship’s success, according to a 2020 study led by a research team at Western University.

At one point or another, the question of what makes a successful relationship has crossed the minds of many people, whether they are in a new or established relationship.

“This is a really interesting study because it looked at data from over 11,000 couples and 43 data sets and they used AI technology,” said relationship expert Jessica O’Reilly.

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In addition to perceived partner commitment, appreciation and sexual satisfaction account for nearly half of the variance in relationship quality.

O’Reilly said the research team also looked at how individual characteristics affect the outcome of the relationship.

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For example, she said your own satisfaction with life and attachment style accounts for only 21 per cent of variance when it comes to relationship quality.


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“So when you look at it on the whole, relationship-specific variables matter two to three times more than individual differences,” said O’Reilly.

For people who just meet for the first time, whether it is in person or virtually, trying to find out whether they are a good match right away is common.

According to O’Reilly, when we think about love at first sight, it is important to differentiate between the feelings behind love and the actions behind love.


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“It’s much easier to conjure the feeling of love than an act of love in the long run,” she said.

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“Feeling love doesn’t mean that you’re willing to commit for the long-term.”

Relationships involve a lot of factors, including commitment, trust, vulnerability and patience, O’Reilly said.

“You cannot tell from the onset, you know, just from looking at someone that we’re going to make this last for a lifetime,” she said.

“But when we go back to commitment mattering, we can think a little bit about what makes our relationship last.”

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O’Reilly says that when someone views their partner positively and perceives their commitment as high, it benefits the relationship.

First, she says giving them the benefit of the doubt and focusing on positive attributes, even when you are mad at them, as well as downplaying the attraction and value of alternative potential partners, has proven to also be good for relationships.

The second part involves belief and trust.

“It’s good for the relationship because you have lower levels of distress associated with the fear of loss… and it also can support you in having a more secure attachment style. You’re really supporting the expression perception and everything,” she said.

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According to O’Reilly, conversations around the relationship itself also matter, not just in terms of resolving conflict but also what each person values and needs. She adds that using humour is also a key factor, along with being open to being approached in conversation.

“If your actions, communication style or vibe make it difficult for your partner to approach you to discuss a range of topics from the mundane to the complex, this can hinder communication and connection,” she said.

“You’re not responsible for their feelings or their fears, but you do play a role in helping to cultivate their openness and comfort.”

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She adds that conflict matters. Its intensity and how people manage it — as a team or as an individual looking for a win — can take a toll on the relationship.

O’Reilly also touched on the physical component of relationships and sexual satisfaction.

“Yes, sexual satisfaction matters but I also want to emphasize that fun and playfulness,” she said, “reflects the ways in which you interact outside the bedroom.

“If you invest some effort in meeting one another’s needs and really looking at what fulfillment means to you… It pays off across the relationship.”

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