There are 24 factors that are important for compatibility in romantic relationships: that’s according to a new study, which also mapped those factors against different “love styles” to try to figure out what similarities are most important to loved-up couples.
“Most studies in this area tend to focus on desirable features in a romantic or sexual partner or general desirable features within a relationship,” study author Alessia Marchi, of the University of Padua, told PsyPost. “The purpose of our study was to better understand the role and the definition of compatibility within romantic/sexual relationships. So we directly ask people when they perceive compatibility with a potential partner.”
We won’t keep you in suspense any longer. These are the factors that the study concluded were most important:
Bearing in mind that the authors started with 153 possibilities, this is actually quite a pared-back list. The study included 274 participants with an average age of 28, most of whom were heterosexual, single, and had never been married.
Overall, participants were most likely to choose a partner based on similar lifestyles, morals, and opinions, whereas things like education, religion, and intelligence were considered less important.
“Sharing similar values, opinions and lifestyle with a partner is probably more important than we might think. Being very similar when it comes to personality factors or hobbies might, on the other hand, not be as important as we automatically think,” said Marchi.
Perhaps less surprisingly, being compatible across a range of different factors was considered more important when seeking a long-term partner. For a short-lived relationship, the participants were mostly interested in making a compatible match based on intellect and appearance.
There were also differences between men and women: the men on average cared most about similarities in emotions and activities, whereas the women seemed to be choosier. They particularly looked for compatibility in lifestyle, opinions, morals, conformity, appearance, and empathy.
However, this brings us to the major caveat of this study. There were considerably more female participants (225) than male (49), making it difficult to know whether the 24 factors are truly reflective of men’s views.
“Not enough men participated to confirm that all factors of compatibility worked the same between men and women,” co-author Zsófia Csajbók told PsyPost. “This would be very nice to test in future research where we have more men and potentially study other cultures as well.”
To further their analysis, the study authors also incorporated a measurement of different “love styles”, to see if people’s preferences in a potential partner were consistent with their own personal approaches to romance.
Using an Italian translation of a psychological questionnaire called the Love Attitudes Scale-Short Form, participants were categorized as being predominant in one of five love styles: Eros, Ludus, Storge, Pragma, Mania, and Agape.
Eros is linked to passionate and intense emotions, and a desire for romance. Ludus covers those who take a more playful and casual approach to new relationships. Storge refers to a deeper connection that grows out of a friendship into more romantic feelings, while people who score highly for Pragma tend to take a highly logical and practical approach. Mania is exactly what it sounds like – a turbulent rollercoaster of emotions around romantic relationships, and often a tendency towards jealousy and possessiveness. Finally, Agape describes a selfless and altruistic love, with a strong focus on the partners’ wellbeing.
The authors did find that an individual’s love style influenced the compatibility factors they deemed most important. For example, someone scoring highly for Eros would be more likely to want a good match for romanticism, enthusiasm, and humor. By contrast, those who leaned more towards agape actually preferred partners who were different to them in a range of factors, including opinions and sociality.
The sex disparity is not the only limitation of the study – there’s also the fact that the participants were all Italian and mostly heterosexual, for example. But the study authors plan to use these findings as a jumping-off point for more in-depth research.
“What we plan to do, is take the 24 and re-use them as items themselves because the number seems like a lot, there may be underlying factors in them, and the items we used were ad hoc,” explained co-author Peter Karl Jonason. “Factor analyses is 60 percent art so we need to refine further.”
The study is published in Personality and Individual Differences.