Each relationship is unique, and countless factors influence whether or not it’s a predominantly happy or sad one, just as they determine how long the relationship is going to last. It’s clearly complicated – so how can you predict success or failure? Fortunately, the University of Exeter’s law and medical schools have your back.
They’ve teamed up with plenty of lawyers, relationship counselors, and more to boil it all down to 10 key questions. They are:
1 – Are my partner and I a ‘good fit’?
(Can we work well as a team? Do we have similar values and a similar outlook on life?)
2 – Do we have a strong basis of friendship?
(Do we have fun together? Share interests and humor? Appreciate each other?)
3 – Do we want the same things in our relationship and out of life?
(Do we each feel that we can jointly agree on a plan for our lives together? Can we negotiate?)
4 – Are our expectations realistic?
(Do we accept there will be ups and downs? Understand the need to make an effort?)
5 – Do we generally see the best in each other?
(Can we accept each other’s flaws? Respect our differences?)
6 - Do we both work at keeping our relationship vibrant?
(Do we make time to spend together and spend some time apart? Each show the other that we care?)
7 – Do we both feel we can discuss things freely and raise issues with each other?
(Do we deal with issues promptly and constructively? Enjoy talking and listening to each other?)
8 – Are we both committed to working through hard times?
(Do we both ‘give and take’? Work on ourselves? Look to a positive future together?)
9 – When we face stressful circumstances would we pull together to get through it?
(Can we each adapt well to change? Would we seek professional help if needed?)
10 – Do we each have supportive others around us?
(Do we each have a good support network we can turn to or call on for help if needed?)
The Shackleton Relationships Project – named after its chief funder, the UK solicitor – looked at 43 couples, admittedly not very many, who had either been married for 10 years, or had separated in that time period. They also looked at 10 same-sex and mixed-sex couples that were married, in a civil partnership, or had been otherwise cohabiting for 15 years.
These included interviews conducted with the couples throughout their lives, consultation with practitioners, and finding out through database research what younger people – 11 to 18-year-olds – think is important for relationships.
Some key findings arose, including that thriving relationships of different lengths and types are apparently driven by very similar factors across the board, and such drivers can develop over time. Such variables include the quality of friendship, realistic expectations, an inherent deep meaning to the relationship shared by both parties, being a pragmatic tension diffuser, great communication, compassion – as opposed to just unconditional romantic love – and making sure to anticipate change.
They also found that, outside obviously terrible things like physical and emotional abuse, there were a few flashpoints that proved to be microcosms of the entire relationship. The most commonly cited were the transitioning into parenthood and differing attitudes to financial issues.
Incompatibility, unrealistic expectations, failure to deal with issues, and failure to nurture the relationship were all red flags too. Overall, the team said that their work – not peer-reviewed to be fair – “broadly fits with the academic literature.”
There’s a lot of nuance in there, and you can read the report in full here.
The team of researchers thought it best, however, to transform their findings into the aforementioned questions. If you wish, you and your partner can ask them at the start of or throughout an ideally long-term relationship to gauge how likely it is you will continue to be in a happy partnership.
The long and short of it? As noted by BBC News, "good friends make the best lovers."