No couple is perfect, but here’s how to find out if you’re damn close
You’re pretty sure you’ve finally found the right partner.
She listens intently while you vent about your grueling day at work, and always has your Netflix queue lined up for a lazy night in.
But how can you tell for sure? Luckily, science has some answers.
Read up on these research-backed factors that strongly influence whether or not you and your partner are meant to go the distance.
1. YOU’RE BOTH POSITIVE
Studies show that a positive outlook and a few genuinely exchanged smiles a day can go a long way in keeping a relationship stable.
Researchers from the University of Chicago found that when just one partner possesses a high level of positivity, there’s less conflict in the relationship.
“Positive emotions are fundamental to any relationship because they counteract the negative emotions that shut us down,” says Jane Greer, New York-based relationship expert and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness from Ruining Your Relationship. “This translates into feeling more secure with your partner and more trusting.”
And the benefits of seeing the cup half full don’t stop there.
Another study published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that couples who celebrated their partners’ achievements—say, a job promotion or killing that 7-minute mile—as if they were their own experienced greater satisfaction than those who reacted negatively or with indifference.
In the study, the couples who had broken up rated their partners’ typical responses to good news as “particularly uninspiring.”
While this isn’t to say you should throw a full-on party the next time she shares some good news, it’s a sure sign that optimism can benefit you both.
2. YOU KEEP TEXTING TO A MEANINGFUL MINIMUM
Tread lightly when communicating with your partner via texting, say researchers from Brigham Young University.
After surveying 276 men and women around age 22 and in committed relationships, they found that heavy texting was to blame for both genders feeling dissatisfied with their relationships.
“Texting is precarious for a lot of people in relationships because it’s hard to flesh out our genuine expressions,” says Greer. “When one person is less interactive, the expectation is not matched by the reality for the other. And this can lead to disappointment and a feeling of disconnection.”
Similarly, the study found that the men who texted more often reported lower relationship quality than those who didn’t text their partners as frequently, while the women who texted more often reported higher relationship quality.
Researchers speculate that as men detach from the relationship, they replace face-to-face convo with increased texting. The women, on the other hand, take to their mobile devices to try and make things work.
Bottom line? Hold the phone—literally.
3. YOU LIMIT SOCIAL MEDIA USE
You love checking your Instagram, Facebook and Twitter feeds—and, chances are, it’s probably also how you read your news.
But over-scrolling on social media may be one of the most toxic things you can do for your relationship.
One study in the Journal of Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking found that people who use Facebook more than once a day are more likely to report conflicts in the relationship.
“Romantic relationships can be challenging enough to navigate without these added technological complications,” says Joseph Cilona, Psy.D., Manhattan-based licensed clinical psychologist.
“Finding ways to simplify or minimize potential pitfalls, like limiting what each other shares about your relationship on social media, is a great rule of thumb to follow,” Cilona says.
But these results only held true for couples in the early years of the relationship—which may mean the threat of Facebook coming between you two reduces the longer you stay together.
4. YOU CUDDLE
Most of us admit to loving the feeling of being physically close to another human—it’s a natural, biological response.
But consistent physical intimacy (not just sexual) can also signal how happy you are together.
A study published in The American Journal of Family Therapy surveyed 100 men and 195 women to examine their preferences and attitudes towards romantic physical affection—massaging, caressing, cuddling, holding hands, hugging— and found overwhelmingly that the amount they experienced in their relationship was significantly linked to the couple’s satisfaction.
“Cuddling and tenderness help maintain the physical connection and intimacy shared between couples—not just when you’re being sexual,” says Greer.
“As a result, it can be easier to get turned on because there’s always an element of sexual energy being shared through physical touches,” says Greer. “Therefore leading to a happier relationship overall.”
5. YOU ACTUALLY FIGHT INSTEAD OF HOLDING BACK YOUR FEELINGS
While your last argument with her might leave you feeling crappy, one study reports that fights may be critical to keeping your relationship intact.
Researchers from Florida State University found that expressing anger when disagreements arise may actually be necessary in resolving problems in the relationship.
In fact, trying to just “forgive and forget” could lead to buried feelings of resentment that fester and almost always reappear later in the relationship.
“If you learn to argue in a healthy way early on, then you’re more comfortable expressing your emotions to your partner and working through your different points of view,” says Greer. “This creates a good working framework for handling arguments in a positive way instead of them resurfacing constantly, causing more strain in the relationship.”
So don’t be afraid to put your feelings out there and fight (respectfully, of course) next time you feel passionately for or against something in your relationship.
6. YOU HAVE REGULAR SEX
If the honeymoon phase has come and gone and the two of you are still getting hot and heavy on a regular basis, that’s always a good sign.
In fact, a study published in the Journal Society for Personality and Social Psychology found that having sex at least once a week brings as much happiness to your relationship as making an extra $50,000.
For this study, researchers surveyed more than 30,000 Americans over four decades, and found that having sex just once a week was the frequency most linked to relationship happiness.
Surprisingly, couples who had sex more or less frequently were not happier.
“Intimacy is just another type of communication, so if that communication falters, so will your sexual connection in response,” says Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., a licensed psychotherapist and author of Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage.
That being said, it’s important to remember that you should both be into it.
“If you’re mutually enjoying more sex, then it will make you both happier, but remember that it comes down to both people wanting to be intimate that often,” says Greer.
7. YOU’RE SIMILAR
You know the old saying, “opposites attract”? Well, if you happen to have a lot in common with your partner, it may be a better recipe for attraction.
In fact, a study by researchers from Wellesley College and the University of Kansas found that we’re actually hard-wired to desire “like-minded others.”
They were able to reach this conclusion by analyzing pairs of people—from romantic couples to friends and even mere acquaintances—interacting in public.
The pairs were asked questions about attitude, values, and prejudice, among other things.
The researchers found that the longer-term relationship pairs had greater similarities than those who had recently become acquainted.
“If you’re more alike in terms of your personalities, you’re sharing similar styles of dealing with a variety of things in life—from interacting with friends to experiencing life changes,” says Greer. “So if you and your partner share similar values and interests, you’ll wind up with more cooperative spirits and having a greater respect for one another.”
8. YOUR SPENDING HABITS DIFFER
You’re certainly not alone if you find that the majority of the arguments you have as a couple are sparked by personal (or combined) finances.
In fact, a Money Magazine poll found that a whopping 70 percent of couples argue about finances the most—more than household chores, togetherness, sex, snoring, and so on.
But if the two of you have stark differences in the way in which you prefer to spend—if one of you is frugal and the other is freer with their funds—you just might be perfect for each other.
The evidence is in one study by the Universities of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Northwestern.
Researchers surveyed over 1,000 married and unmarried couples, and found that most individuals tend to choose a partner that has opposite money spending habits.
So even if you and her don’t see eye-to-eye on finances, that combination may actually work in your favor.
“Just remember to prioritize the big-spending opportunities like buying a car, house, etc.,” reminds Greer.
9. YOU LAUGH AT THE SAME JOKES
If you and your girlfriend both know how to appreciate a raunchy comedy routine, love anything with Will Ferrell, or both equally detest either of those two scenarios, you’re a match made in heaven.
A study published in the Western Journal of Communication found that 75 percent of happy couples laugh together at least once a day.
Even more interesting, another study reported in the same journal found that 92 percent of married men and women credited humor as a factor that made a significant contribution to their married life.
Sharing a sense of humor gives each of you the resilience you need to laugh off the petty and irrelevant things that naturally build up in life and offers more chances to bond intimately on a regular basis, says Greer.
10. YOU BOTH LIKE TO BOOZE IT UP—OR DON’T DRINK AT ALL
We’ve all seen it at one point in our lives—the couple scenario where one person is totally sober and the other is a giant, falling-all-over-the-place mess.
There’s a good reason why those unmatched levels of drunkenness or sobriety don’t wind up working out in the end.
In a study published in the journal of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, scientists reviewed data collected from nearly 20,000 married couples.
The researchers found that the spouses who consumed relatively the same amount of alcohol were less likely to divorce than pairs where one person drank more heavily or significantly lighter than the other spouse.
“I’ve seen many couples split when one of the pair of drinkers got sober,” says Tessina. “Alcohol alters a heavy drinker’s experiences and perceptions, so couples who drink heavily together naturally have similar ways of living, as do couples who don’t drink much at all.”