Psychologist Christine Finn has discovered the factors that determine whether a couple will stay together forever or break up.
Christine Finn, 37, analyzes data from Extensive Pairfam partnership study At the University of Jena in Germany. The survey began in 2008 with 12,402 people participating. Participants are extensively interviewed about their relationship once a year. Nearly 2,000 couples participated in FIN’s study, which ran for more than 7 years. 319 of them separated during that period.
Can you predict which relationships will last?
Christine Finn: Of course, it is difficult to predict the exact time of separation. But it is possible to predict whether the relationship will continue overall or not.
What are the signals?
Finn: After the couples in our study separated, we analyzed the factors that previously connected them and the factors that separated them.
What did you discover?
Finn: Personal needs seem to be very important. Do you want your partner close to you? How often do you want to see each other? Do you know what moves the other person? Also important: independence. How much freedom do you want in a relationship to be able to pursue your own interests? If spouses disagree on this matter from the beginning – and this gap widens over time – the risk of divorce increases.
It’s not that extroverts just look for extroverted partners and are necessarily happy with them.
Many couples spend their first weeks or months on a rosy cloud. Then the first conflicts inevitably arise. How long should you keep it?
Finn: It is difficult to put a specific term on individual cases. But try it together for a few months. If there are serious problems, constant arguments and dissatisfaction, after six months you will know where you stand. Some people are willing to end a relationship more quickly, others try a little longer.
Doesn’t the fact that one partner is a party animal and the other prefers to read books at home immediately present a problem?
Finn: Important personality traits, such as how open you are, how willing you are to be cooperative, or how conscientious you are, have little impact on relationship satisfaction. It is not that extroverts, who like to maintain a lot of social contacts, are only looking for partners who are extroverts and are by definition happy with them.
So a good combination is possible?
Finn: A good combination is definitely possible. A couple who is on the same page may be a little happier. But it does not have a significant impact on the stability of the relationship. Common interests seem to be important: travel, culture and sports. Agreeing to a greater or lesser extent on political issues also helps.
What should people pay attention to at the beginning of a relationship?
Finn: Try to find out what makes your potential partner special. What interests and values do you share? This may not be so important for young couples, but starting from a certain age, you also have to look out for each other. What are your future plans? How much time do you want to spend together, how much freedom do I need? If my partner wants to spend every day with me, but I want to maintain my freedom and see my friends regularly, this will inevitably lead to conflict. It is important then that we sit down together and talk about these different needs.
Try to find out what makes your potential partner special.
What can you work on in a successful relationship?
Finn: The crucial point is often communication. People keep their frustrations to themselves and simply assume their partner has certain opinions. But you have to ask yourself: What do I really want? What do I need? How do I experience this right now? Share these thoughts with your partner and give the other person a chance to respond without getting angry or making accusations. You can practice this. You can get better at it.
And when should you accept that you can no longer change your partner?
Finn: Your personality is very stable. This changes to some extent, especially through a good relationship with many positive experiences. But no one will turn 180 degrees. A person for whom the system is not very important will find it very difficult to change. You have to think about how important certain qualities are to you in a partner and how much you can handle them if they are not what you want them to be.
And when should you pull the plug?
Finn: Some people stay in a relationship for a long time, perhaps because they are afraid of being alone. Others get angry easily and don’t want to compromise too much. In the end, everyone has to decide for themselves.
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