Being Similar To Your Partner Doesn’t Guarantee Greater Happiness
April 22, 2019 by Justin Lehmiller
Finding a compatible partner is one of the cornerstones of a happy and healthy relationship. But how do you determine who you’re compatible with? Intuitively, you might think the answer would be to take the approach that a lot of online dating companies do, which is try and partner-up with someone similar to you. If you’re more similar, you’ll definitely be happier in the end, right?
Research finds that being objectively similar to one’s partner may not be as important as previously thought, a subject I discuss in a recent column over at TONIC. I review the results of a new longitudinal study of couples in long-term relationships. Researchers looked at how each partner’s individual standing on the Big Five personality traits (openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism), as well as the degree of similarity between partners’ personalities, predicted psychological well-being (e.g., life satisfaction, mood state, feelings of purpose/meaning in life) and relationship satisfaction.
What they found was that personality predicted happiness at the individual level. For example, if you were more conscientious (i.e., detail oriented) and less neurotic (i.e., better at dealing with stress)—or if you partnered with someone who had these traits—you tended to be happier overall and with your relationship. By contrast, similarity in personality had weak and inconsistent associations with the various measures of well-being tested in this study.
In other words, your own personality traits seem to say much more about your overall happiness than whether you and your partner are similar to one another.
These results are consistent with other research on the effects of partner similarity and psychological well-being, and they have important implications for the world of online dating, given that many online dating companies are predicated on the idea that putting the most similar people together will make people the happiest.
To learn more about this research as well as other factors that predict relationship satisfaction, check out the full article over at TONIC.
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Dr. Justin LehmillerFounder & Owner of Sex and Psychology
Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.Read full bio >