A really unique study came out a few weeks ago. It is a longitudinal study (meaning data gathered for a long time) that used machine learning to look for predictors of relationship quality. One of the most interesting things about what the authors state they found was that how we view our relationship is more predictive of relationship quality than anything. In addition, there were no individual factors that were predictive of positive or negative impact.
What this means is that how we view the relationship is more important than how much we have in common. It is a common dating myth that we should be looking for someone who has shared interests, like "being active" or "likes the outdoors" (I swear if I read that one more time on a dating profile). I will tell you straight up, your interests will change when you get married and especially when you have kids. If you base a relationship only on "we like to have fun together", you are in for a rough road in the long term.
So what was the best predictor? Your individual way of being in a relationship. Specifically in this study they list: life satisfaction, negative affect, depression, attachment avoidance, and attachment anxiety.
Additionally, the top relationship-specific predictors of relationship quality were perceived-partner commitment, appreciation, sexual satisfaction, perceived-partner satisfaction, and conflict.
If you want to check out the abstract of the study, you can find it here.
I'm going to take a few blog posts in the next few days to pull apart each of these factors and write more about what that might look like in real life.
What other questions do you have about this new research? Or dating and relationships in general?
Sometimes people will ask me what things they should be looking for in a potential marriage partner. Unfortunately, most people believe they should look for common interests or physical attraction as an indicator of compatibility. Here are the things I believe to be important to look for in a partner.
Is there something you feel I left out or forgot to mention? Let me know in the comments.
Something I have been hearing lots of stories about lately has been the experience of getting into a relationship when you aren't actually ready to see it through to the end. Let me explain.
I have seen people who are not emotionally, mentally, spiritually or financially ready to get married. But they REALLY want to get married and/or date someone because, gosh darn it, it feels good to be wanted (and often people believe that someone wanting them tells them more about their value than their own life does). So they start dating someone, or continue to date someone who is in a place to move forward in a relationship (or at least say they are ready).
The one not ready will often say, I'm not ready to date or be in a serious relationship. They know they have stuff to work on to be a stable person for a healthy relationship. The problem is that they stay emotionally and physically in the relationship.
This looks like continuing to text them even though you aren't in person dating. It looks like continuing to date just brushing it off as "just friends." It looks like continuing to engage in physical intimacies (kissing, making out, sex) with someone all the while saying, "I told you I'm not looking for serious dating." The actions do not align with what their words are saying.
So if you are the person on the receiving end of this from someone you are attempting to date, please take the person at their word. They aren't ready and you need to stop engaging in the relationship with them hoping that they will change their mind. Very often it is not about you, and in fact it really is about them. Respect yourself and them enough to stop interacting until they are ready.
If you are the the person doing this to someone, please respect those whom you might date enough to actually step back the relationship. The time and energy that you would put into "not dating" someone is better used to get therapy and deal with whatever prevents you from healthy dating.
I know on both sides of this, people fear losing a relationship, which is what keeps them going in this unhealthy pattern. The ironic thing is that staying in this pattern can actually implode an otherwise good dating match. Do yourself and others a favor by waiting until you are ready to actually be in a relationship so you can engage in a healthy way. You may be surprised how easy it is to move a relationship to exclusive dating and then to marriage when you do.
Emotion regulation in relationships is really the key to healthy connection. We have all sorts of old experiences that pop up for us when we interact with others. We need to become aware of what is happening in the present vs what happened in the past. I took the picture for this post a few weeks ago to remind me of the stillness and calmness that I am striving for. What things do you use to help you stay present in relationships?
I don't think that people get into relationships intending to hurt others. I also don't think that most people are jerks as a general personality trait. And there are far fewer narcissists than people believe their ex to be. :) What I do believe is that good people, in trying to be "nice" or avoid conflict, absolutely become a jerk. Here are a few examples of how it works.
The thing I'm hearing about the most lately is dating apps. So many people are using them because the pandemic has stopped general socializing. I hear about how horrible the apps are with so many people who just stop responding, the dates they go on are awful or that all they get are scammers. Here are some suggestions:
1. When you match with someone, have something ready to start a conversation. Just like you wouldn't go up to a stranger and just say HI and stare at them waiting for them to ask you questions, don't expect the other person to carry the conversation. Conversation starters could be about an activity described in their profile that sparked something for you, or even just what attracted you in their picture. Be specific. "I liked the sparkle in your eyes." or "You seem to really like adventure activities, what was your latest one?" or even just, "Man, this coronavirus stuff is really putting a damper on my social life, want to go do something fun in an appropriately socially distanced way?"
2. Moderate your expectations. You may not hit it off right away. I have spoken with many people who believe they will "just know" when they have met their person. Sometimes a connection takes a bit to develop. Give it a chance to develop. Also remember that you shouldn't be thinking about marriage from the first meeting.
3. Scammers are prevalent in all the dating apps. Ask for in person meetings in a public place. Don't give anyone money. Be wary if someone says they are in love with you quickly.
I'll have another post about dating apps in the future, so be on the look-out!
What questions or problems would you want to learn about? What have you seen others struggle with or what have you struggled with? Is there something you have always wanted to know but didn't know who to ask?
Feel free to leave your questions in the comments. It may just end up as a blog post! If you are interested in having me give you feedback on your dating struggles and are willing to have it be a blog post, go to the contact page and send me a message.
I have been thinking about doing this for a long time. I hear so many stories of people who struggle with dating. Many people aren't sure what to do and therefore listen to well-intentioned people that create more problems. I have also seen how many problems that married couples deal with started when they were dating. I hope that I can bring solid principles and guidance to those who are seeking quality information from someone in the trenches.
As a general disclaimer: while I am a therapist, information from this website does not constitute advice for your specific situation. Nor does it mean that we have any therapeutic relationship. If you have questions or concerns about this, please feel free to reach out through the contact page.
Jen has many years of working with singles after receiving training as an MFT and seeing that many married couples problems start while they are dating. She wants to change marriage by helping singles date better so they marry better.