Do Our Friends Decide Our Relationship Fate?

by Mikaela Gilbert-Lurie

I have a tendency to seek out reasons to end relationships (is my endgame to make myself completely undatable by saying stuff like this on the Internet?), and one of the easiest methods of finding them is to introduce a guy I'm dating to my friends. Does he talk too much about investment banking? Is he wearing a scarf? Did he make a comment about how he doesn't like Broad City? My friends will, without fail, hone in on details like that and point them out to me (and when they're being mean, they'll point them out to him too). So this study that shows that our friends are decisive factors in predicting the longevity of a relationship doesn't surprise me at all.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Family Psychology, consisted of administering a survey to 480 participants who are in same-sex and/or interracial relationships, in an attempt to discover whether stigma from family and friends had any effect on relationship quality. Does "relationship quality" sound like an amorphous term? It's not — it's actually a pretty specific one (hey, this is science after all). The study measured quality on the following fronts: "Investment, satisfaction, intimate partner aggression victimization and perpetration, commitment, intimacy, trust, passion, love, sexual communication, and sexual satisfaction."

While the results confirmed what most of us probably already assumed — that, yes, opinions from our family, friends and society in general matter when it comes to the quality of our relationships — the curveball was how much more the opinions of our friends matter than anything else. Apparently, our friends' opinions about our significant others matters a lot.

The study found that relationship stigma from friends (that is, when your friends respond negatively to your relationship) is correlated with "lower relationship commitment, trust, love, and sexual communication, as well as greater odds of intimate partner aggression victimization." Basically, the more your friends stigmatize your relationship, the worse off you are on almost every account of measurable relationship quality. To put it even more bluntly: If you're friends aren't happy with your relationship, that can often translate into you not being being happy with your relationship.

What else influences whether our relationships will last? These five studies offer some insight:

1. Math

Hannah Fry's TED talk on the mathematics of love revealed that there are specific mathematical formulas to determine whether a relationship will last. Factors such as when a couple meets (ideally not in the first 37 percent of their dating lives) and how happy they are when they're together versus apart all play a role in determining a relationship's longevity.

2. Kindness

A study conducted by John Gottman revealed that a surprisingly strong indicator of lasting relationships is a couple's tendency to engage in small, frequent acts of kindness towards each other.

3. Positive Thoughts

Researchers at the University of Geneva found in 2005 that couples who are able to develop and maintain "positive illusions" about one another tend to have a much better shot at making it than those who do not. Essentially, if you picture your partner as kind and loving and funny, you're much more likely to believe he or she is all of those things.

4. Novel Experiences

Psychology Today reported that couples who are open to trying new things together are more likely to stay together, as their relationships tend to grow in response to novel stimuli.

5. Independence

It may seem counterintuitive (although it certainly won't to anyone who has ever been in a relationship with someone who's really clingy), but spending time apart from your partner and living your own life can strengthen your relationship, according to a TED talk by Esther Perel.

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