The worst relationship pattern between a couple is a dramatic style involving many ups and downs and wildly swinging commitment, research finds.
Dramatic couples like to do things separately and tend to focus on the negative aspects of each other.
This type of couple is twice as likely to break up as those that fall into other categories.
Their relationships were the most likely to go backwards over time.
One-third of couples in the study fell into the ‘dramatic’ category.
Dr Brian Ogolsky, the study’s first author, said:
“These couples have a lot of ups and downs, and their commitment swings wildly.
They tend to make decisions based on negative events that are occurring in the relationship or on discouraging things that they’re thinking about the relationship, and those things are likely to chip away at their commitment.”
The conclusion comes from research on 376 dating couples.
After tracking their relationship commitment for 9 months, the psychologists put them into one of four categories.
Dr Ogolsky explained:
“The four types of dating couples that we found included the dramatic couple, the conflict-ridden couple, the socially involved couple, and the partner-focused couple.”
In contrast to the dramatic type, the partner-focused couples — who made up around one-third of the sample — were the most likely to stay together.
Dr Ogolsky said:
“These partners are very involved with each other and dependent on each other, and they use what’s happening in their relationship to advance their commitment to deeper levels.
People in these couples had the highest levels of conscientiousness, which suggests that they are very careful and thoughtful about the way they approach their relationship choices.”
Couples that were full of conflict — 12% in this study — were still not as rocky as dramatic couples, the researchers found.
Dr Ogolsky said:
“These couples operate in a tension between conflict that pushes them apart and passionate attraction that pulls them back together.
This kind of love may not be sustainable in the long term–you’d go crazy if you had 30 to 50 years of mind-bending passion.
Partners may change from one group to another over time,”
Like partner-focused couples, socially-involved couples (the remaining 19%) had very good relationships.
They shared their social network and used it to make decisions about their commitment.
Dr Ogolsky said:
“Ideally long-term relationships should be predicated on friendship-based love.
And having mutual friends makes people in these couples feel closer and more committed.”
Naturally, couples can move between the categories over time as their relationship matures.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the Journal of Marriage and Family (Ogolsky et al., 2015).