The learnings at eharmony never stop. We commissioned Harris Interactive late last year to do a survey on how happy couples are in America. A lot of interesting findings came out of it, including the breakdown of what makes for a very happy couple, as well as a desperately unhappy pair.
More Happiness Index stats can be found here, but for my purposes I wanted to focus on the factors that go into an extremely happy relationship, and then — what we can learn from the couples who aren’t so satisfied.
This is what stands out for the relationships reaching the pinnacles of happiness: they are similar in age (like, exactly the same age!), are more than likely on their first marriage, and the reason they got together in the first place? Pure love. Perfect happiness was most common among 25-44 year olds. Besides being similar in age, these couples share personality traits like confidence and optimism, and have the same outlooks on life. They both highly value open communication, compromise, and relationship therapy.
The happiest couples:
- Have regular date nights
- Hold hands more than other couples
- Work out together
- Have a wide circle of friends
- Have sex much more frequently than average
- Are more likely than average to drink together in a bar
- Live in an urban area
- Have 2+ kids living in their household
- Are more likely than average to have completed a higher level of education, and have much higher than average household incomes
So, the happiest of couples are similar, value really important stuff like talking to one another, and make the relationship a consistent priority. When they do argue, they keep it polite.
The couples who say they are “desperately unhappy” got together with their partners “because it felt like the right time” or for “companionship,” rather than being in love. I think that is a key differentiating point between the two.
Other key factors in unhappy relationships:
- They are more likely than average to be 35-64 years old
- They are more likely to have been married before
- They tend to have an age difference of 5 years
- They are significantly less likely to have open communication with their partner
- They are much less open to relationship therapy
- Their fights are more likely to include personal insults
- They are very unhappy with their sex life
- They have a lack of trust in their partner
- They stress each other out
The unhappiest of couples seem to lack sharing common interests, they don’t participate in activities together, don’t share a sense of humor, and in general, are not bringing out the best qualities in one another. They don’t seem to value the most important things that make a relationship work really well – like open communication and trust.
When I came to work at eharmony, one of the first things I learned from our research scientists was that “opposites attract, and then attack.” This seems to line up pretty well with the data uncovered here. The more you just don’t connect, struggle to communicate, or feel uncomfortable being authentic with your partner, the tougher a relationship will be.
The bottom line: find someone who is a lot more like you than unlike you.