Relationship Satisfaction and Its Determinants in the United States
Relationship satisfaction is the underlying foundation for marital happiness. It relates to a number of important variables, including communication and sexual satisfaction.
Previous research has shown that certain factors predict a couple’s level of relationship satisfaction. These include gender, age, and the length of their relationship. Researchers also take into account whether a couple is living together or separately.
For both men and women, the gender of a partner influences relationship satisfaction in similar ways. People who report that they are in a heterosexual relationship are more satisfied with their relationships than those who are in a homosexual one or those who are in a non-relationship with a significant other. However, the differences between genders are less stark when looking at other variables such as age or cohabitation.
It’s also important to look at how a person’s own sense of fairness in a relationship relates to their satisfaction. For example, women who think that their partners share household duties equally are more satisfied with their relationships than those who feel that they do not. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to be satisfied with their relationships when they are convinced that their partners are able to handle conflict effectively and communicate well.
While intrapersonal and interpersonal factors can influence a person’s level of satisfaction in a relationship, environmental factors can have an effect as well. For example, people’s levels of satisfaction tend to decline with age and reach a low point around the time they have their first child. These fluctuations are likely due to a combination of factors, including the loss of free time and the increased demands that come with parenting. However, those who are able to adjust their expectations of their relationships and their own contributions to the relationship may be able to weather these shifts.
The age of one’s partner influences satisfaction in a relationship, as does the length of the relationship. Couples with similar ages tend to be more satisfied than those with different ages. This is likely because they experience the same emotional ups and downs at a similar pace and are better able to understand one another’s perspective.
In contrast, for both men and women, satisfaction declines over the duration of marriage for couples with larger marital age gaps. These declines erase the initial higher levels of satisfaction experienced by husbands married to younger wives and women married to younger husbands within 6 to 10 years of marriage.
These trends are consistent with evolutionary theories of pair bonding that predict people will prefer partners that are close in age and go through life’s stages at a similar time. However, socio-economic factors can sometimes counteract these evolutionary urges.
Overall, despite the pandemic, most Americans remain extremely satisfied with their relationships. In fact, more than seven in ten say their romantic relationship is extremely important to their happiness, up from a year ago when it was six in ten. This is according to a national Monmouth (“mon-MOE”) University poll conducted by Braun Research on behalf of The New York Times. The margin of error attributable to sampling is +/- 4.2 percentage points for all adults.
When examining relationship satisfaction, it is important to consider how the determinants of satisfaction relate to each other. For example, a study involving young adults who were in romantic relationships found that the most significant predictors of relationship satisfaction were sexual and interpersonal closeness. This finding held true for both men and women. However, it is worth noting that the sense of closeness was more important in women than it was in men.
Another factor that influences relationship satisfaction is the way that individuals handle negative emotions. For instance, those who are more resilient to the erosion of their relationship satisfaction tend to have better communication skills. This is because they are able to down-regulate their negative emotions and communicate more effectively with their partners.
In a survey of people who were living with their partner during the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers examined how different psychological factors influenced their feelings of satisfaction. They used stepwise regression to find out which variables were most important for predicting relationship satisfaction in both women and men. It was found that both sexual satisfaction and a sense of closeness were key predictors of relationship satisfaction, but the sense of closeness was more important in females than it was in males. Moreover, the sense of closeness was more important in those who lived together than it was in those who lived separately.
According to the “need to belong” theory, humans have a fundamental drive to form stable relationships that are emotionally and socially satisfying. Satisfying this need requires two criteria: first, frequent and affectively pleasant interactions with a limited number of others; second, these interactions must be characterized by a mutual concern for each other’s well-being (Baumeister and Leary 2017). While many individuals think that the characteristics that make up a good partner are primarily personality related, this has proven to be only a small part of the equation in terms of predicting relationship satisfaction. In fact, in a recent study by Joel and Eastwick analyzing 43 longitudinal couples data sets, they found that relationships-specific variables were about two to three times more predictive than individual differences.