By the authors of The Normal Bar
The Normal Bar is, in fact, the most extensive global study ever done on relationships. By asking 1300 questions, we collected 1.8 million data points about past relationships. And what we learned confounded many of our presuppositions about what makes couples click.
We all want to be in love and find someone who loves us—but in every pairing there has to be compatibility—or life can wind up more miserable than if we were alone. There’s nothing worse than being in a relationship year after year that leaves a person unhappy or unfulfilled. Well, come to think of it, there is something worse. What’s worse if you are very happy but don’t realize that your partner is unhappy enough to be thinking about leaving. In our study we found that more than a third of men and women in relationships (37%) said they think about breaking up all the time or often, and another 33% said they sometimes think about it. Not surprisingly, the number is much higher among unhappy couples—87% of partners in those relationships have contemplated leaving. None of us want to be the one longing to get out, so let’s increase the odds that we’ll find satisfaction in the relationship we’ve chosen. Here’s how…
Communication: What’s the number one reason single men and women cite for their relationship ending? Flawed or absent communication. And what did our happiest couples say fulfilled them the most in their current relationship? Satisfying and intimate communication.
Lesson learned: Good communication is absolutely essential, and it needs to start as soon as two people begin getting to know each other.
Love at first sight: Let’s not underestimate the power of love at first sight. It’s actually not so rare. In fact, almost half of all men we surveyed said they’d experienced it. Even more important, couples who fell in love at first sight were more likely to be sexually satisfied with each other in midlife.
Lesson learned: Physical attraction isn’t a trivial matter. Don’t dismiss the lasting impact of love at first sight!
A partner’s real desires and needs: Don’t ever assume that you know what your partner wants or needs to be happy. Many long term partners are clueless! Avoid that big pothole in the road to happiness and find out early what makes your potential partner happy. Also don’t stint in sharing your needs and dreams. Each of you needs to know the truth about what makes the other happy in and out of a relationship. Too many couples let years go by thinking they know when they really have no idea.
Lesson learned: Find out what each of you wants and needs and hopes for early on in the relationship. If a potential partner can’t respect what you need to be happy in or out of the relationship, then you’re going to have a difficult time achieving happiness.
Politics and other deeply held opinions: They’re less critical than you might imagine! Among our politically mismatched partners, 59% said their contrasting views cause no problem in the relationship. Only 9% said political differences do cause big strains in the household.
Lesson Learned: Don’t rule out a potential partner just because they share different political views. What party each of you votes for turns out not to be a happiness deal breaker.
Religious Differences: Religion is often raised as a major consideration when choosing a mate, so we asked couples who differ in their faith or beliefs if they experience more friction in their relationships. An overwhelming 80% said “No, it doesn’t hurt the relationship!” Couples can have differing religious preferences and it seems to have no impact on their overall happiness.
Lesson learned: If you have the opportunity to meet or get to know a potential partner with different religious beliefs, go for it.
Bottom line: It often doesn’t matter who your partner is, or what he or she believes in or values, so long as you’re tuned into it and respectful of what makes them distinct as an individual. Physical connection is crucial, but what turns a first date into a second date is instilling a feeling in the person you’re paired with that they can be themselves and are valued for being themselves. To take The Normal Bar survey or learn more about the results, go to www.the normalbar.com.