A new study published in Evolutionary Psychology sought to shed light on the most effective strategies for maintaining and improving intimate relationships. A combination of qualitative and quantitative research revealed that making efforts to understand your partner’s needs, discussing problems, and showing more interest in a partner were the most popular and effective strategies to improve intimate relationships.
Maintaining an intimate relationship is difficult, and approximately half of marriages are likely to fail. However, for many, ending a romantic relationship is not the desired outcome, so individuals are eager to improve their relationship. To investigate the strategies people use to improve their intimate relationships and their effectiveness in achieving this goal, Menelaos Apostolou and colleagues aimed to identify partner retention methods and classify them into broader strategies.
Behaviors people engage in to maintain and improve relationships can be divided into two groups: cost-inflicting behaviors and benefit-provisioning behaviors. Cost-inflicting behaviors reduce the partner’s self-esteem and induce fear and social isolation to decrease the likelihood of a breakup. In contrast, benefit-provisioning behaviors increase the partner’s enjoyment of the relationship.
Apostolou and team were interested in the strategies that individuals use to enhance their intimate relationships with partners. The research involved 219 Greek-speaking participants who were asked open-ended questions to identify things they usually did to improve their relationships. These responses were condensed into 81 different strategies that were then classified into 14 broader relationship enhancement acts through quantitative research methods with a different set of 511 Greek-speaking participants.
This component of the research found that strategies such as trying to understand partners’ needs, discussing problems with partners, and showing more interest in partners were among the most likely to be used and the most effective. Conversely, the research team also identified that making efforts for self-improvement and enhancing one’s looks were the least effective and the least likely to be used.
The study further hypothesized that partners being controlling and lacking pleasant qualities were sources of relationship difficulty. Giving their partner more space to reduce the control exercised over them was a suggested solution. However, it was discovered that this strategy was not particularly effective and was rated among the least likely to be used.
The most effective strategies were those that demonstrated desirable character traits such as kindness, understanding, and a pleasant personality, the researchers said.
The study also found that gender and age did not affect the strategies individuals were willing to use and how effective they would be in improving their relationships with partners. The only significant sex difference was found in the “make concessions and compromises” strategy, where men were more willing to utilize it.
In conclusion, the study provides insights into the strategies that individuals use to enhance their intimate relationships with partners. The most effective strategies were those that demonstrated desirable character traits such as kindness, understanding, and a pleasant personality. The research team concluded, ” our findings have potential practical value for people aiming to improve their intimate relationships and for mental health professionals wanting to help clients who face difficulties in their intimate relationships.”
The study, ”I want our relationship to last: Strategies that people employ in order to improve their intimate relationships“, was authored by Menelaos Apostolou, Maria Argyridou, Eirini Evaggelia Nikoloudi, and Timo Juhani Lajunen