Similar interests, similar personality -- that’s what matters for long-term happiness in a relationship. Right? Not so, according to a new study by researchers at Michigan State University.
Both online dating sites and smartphone apps tout their ability to match people. Shared characteristics, personality traits, tastes and experiences are put into special formulas to supposedly make a great match, according to their ads. But the solution to finding Mr. or Ms. Right may not be so complicated.
In a recent study, researchers evaluated over 2,500 heterosexual couples over the age of 30 who have been married for an average of 21 years. Like a research-oriented Dating Game, questionnaires were completed separately by each member of the couple.
So what did the researchers discover?
Some things seem to matter more for husbands than for wives. Researchers found that having an extroverted wife appears to be associated with a higher level of well-being for her husband.
Unfortunately, if a man has a higher level of neuroticism (measured by how he agreed with the statement “I worry a lot”), this was associated with lower state of well-being for both the husband and his wife.
Researchers believe they’ve zeroed in on what really matters.
“The more conscientious, agreeable and emotionally stable both you and your partner are, this is associated with a more positive sense of well-being,” the study’s lead author William J. Chopik, Ph.D., director of the Close Relationships Lab, told ABC News. His research group is part of the department of psychology at Michigan State University.
Other research has shown that as you age, the relationship you have with your spouse is important for emotional well-being and even memory, especially in women. The people who are emotionally stable, less neurotic and responsible -- who finish tasks that they start -- have happier relationships. That happy relationship benefits your overall health and longevity.
The researchers from the Michigan State study did not investigate the relationships of same-sex couples, but “the health benefits are likely very similar,” said Dr. Chopik. “It’s shocking that similarity matters so little in relationship happiness.”
So what does this mean for finding love this Valentine’s Day and on into 2019?
Looking at the study’s results, Chopik recommends investing your time seeking out “people who are responsible, nice and emotionally stable.”
So next time you are on a date wondering whether you mesh with the person across from you, you might want to simply ask yourself: Is this person nice? Responsible? Not too anxious? Then they might be a keeper.
Alexandra H. Antonioli, Ph.D., is completing her combined M.D./Ph.D. training at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. She is currently working with the ABC News Medical Unit.