Landmark Study: What Dating Apps Get So Wrong

July 30, 2020

If you have ever labored over how to convey your personality through a dating app bio — or judged someone else’s through theirs — research on romance suggests you place your efforts elsewhere.

It’s taken 20 years of relationship science to get here, but scientists now argue that there’s something far more important than your personality or even your partner’s when it comes to cultivating happy relationships.

The most powerful predictors of relationship quality are the characteristics of the relationship itself — the life dynamic you build with your person. This is according to an analysis of 11,196 couples gleaned from 43 studies.

At the outset of relationships, relationship-related characteristics are likely to account for about 45 percent of the differences in relationship satisfaction. Actor reported traits (or your own personality) can account for 19 percent of differences.

By contrast, a partner’s personality may only account for about 5 percent of that relationship satisfaction. Over time, the estimates become smaller, but the hierarchy remains the same: relationship characteristics trumping individual ones.

Samantha Joel, the study’s first author and the director of the Relationships Decision Lab at Western University, says that her study crystallizes one thing:

“Really, it suggests that the person we choose is not nearly as important as the relationship we build,” she tells Inverse.

The study was published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

What makes relationships successful – This study breaks down all the individual ingredients that go into romantic relationships (or as many that can be captured through asking people questions about their dating lives). They fell into two categories: individual characteristics of each partner and relationship characteristics.

Individual characteristics included attributes like income, satisfaction with life, age, or empathy, amongst many others. Relationship characteristics included things like perceived partner satisfaction, affection, power dynamics, or sexual satisfaction.

In every relationship, both of these categories will intermix, but not all traits will have equal sway.

The study pooled data from 43 separate studies and 11,196 couples who were interviewed at least twice (the interval between interviews ranged from two months to four years, depending on the study). Those interviews showed which attributes within each category were most tightly tied to relationship quality.

“The shared norms, the in-jokes, the shared experiences – is so much more than the separate individuals who make up that relationship.”

The top five individual variables that explained differences in relationship satisfaction were:

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