First relationship can last

Math of love Can the duration of our relationship be calculated?

If you have butterflies in your stomach, you probably don't want to know how long they will stay. Or formulated objectively: when the relationship will end. Scientists from Jena and Alberta / Canada have investigated whether it is possible to predict when a couple will fail - with an inconclusive result:

Predictions about the longevity of a relationship are quite possible.

Dr. Christine Finn, University of Jena

Head of Studies Dr. Christine Finn is pretty sure about this after the evaluation of her long-term study "pairfam". Together with colleagues, the psychologist surveyed around 2,000 couples over a period of seven years on the quality of their relationship. 16 percent of them broke up during this time. According to the scientists, the course for this was set at the beginning of a relationship. On the other hand, how it develops over time also plays a role.

Those who start unhappy become even more unhappy faster

The researchers were able to observe in all couples that the happiness level decreases over time, the butterflies flutter less often. But with those who start the relationship with difficulties, it apparently goes particularly quickly. With this, Dr. Christine Finn and her colleagues confirm two scientific models that describe the course of couple relationships:

We have now found that a mixture of both models is likely to apply.

Dr. Christine Finn, psychologist

From this, the scientists derive a possible prediction about the duration of a relationship - both depending on the "butterfly level" at the beginning and with regard to satisfaction over time.

People of the same kind stick together

The researchers see this dusty-looking phrase confirmed by their study. They had also asked their test couples how much they saw their needs met within the partnership.

Those who have similar needs, for example for closeness, but also to be able to pursue their own interests, usually stay together longer.

Dr. Christine Finn, psychologist

Although one can predict the chances of a relationship having certain "parameters" such as initial happiness level and similarity with regard to needs, Dr. Christine Finn jumping to conclusions: "No relationship is doomed to fail." You can always work on each other and consciously control similarities, such as living out closeness and independence, says Finn. Therefore, she sees a great benefit in the study results, especially for counseling centers and therapists.

Enjoy the moment

How reliable is a possible prediction in view of the many factors that play a role? And do we even want to know how long our relationship will possibly last? Christine Finn warns against looking too closely at the study results. The study does not want to under any circumstances further underpin the general optimization trend. In addition, the duration of a relationship is not the only decisive factor for its meaning:

If couples split up after a while, it can still be a valuable and important phase in their life - which may have a positive effect on the following relationships.

Dr. Christine Finn warns

The idea of ​​trying to predict the duration of a love is not new. John Gottman, a psychologist from the USA, has dealt with it for 40 years, published more than 200 studies, observed thousands of couples and meticulously measured and calculated all parameters that are related to our feelings for one another.

Love meets science

Stumbling block everyday

Gottman's conclusion: The greatest danger to a relationship is everyday life and decreasing mutual esteem. Gottman finds it neither cold nor reduced to work with numbers when it comes to love. Above all, he appreciates their truthfulness and with his study results has also provided important insights for couples therapy.

Facts and figures reveal the fundamental structures of the feeling that seems so intangible to people. For many, love is a complete mystery. At the same time, it is so predictable.

John Gottman, psychologist

Whether we even want to know how long our current relationship will last and whether we want to rely on a possible prognosis is up to us. This question still seems appealing to scientists. The long-term study “pairfam” (“Panel Analysis of Intimate Relationships and Family Dynamics”) runs at least until 2022. It is being carried out by the universities of Jena, Bremen, Chemitz, Cologne and Munich and funded by the German Research Foundation.