7 Things We Learned About Relationships In 2016

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When it comes to love, it seems like there's always more to learn about relationships. The more that we learn, the more we understand our partner, our friends, and ourselves. I mean, there are the basics that we know about a relationship. We know that we need to respect and try to understand each other. But what else?

"The one thing you should expect [in every relationship] is to be considered important in your partner's life," relationship coach and psychic medium Melinda Carver tells Bustle. "Being on the receiving end of your partner's consideration of your wants, needs, and expectations is important. You should also reciprocate by making them important in your life."

And if you take a step back and look at patterns in relationships — at patterns in how people relate to one another, it can help you understand human nature. And it can help you understand your own dating practices. Plus, it's good to see that you're not alone, that other people have had similar experiences or struggle with the same behaviors. So looking at studies of how people are in their relationships— and what shapes them— is hugely helpful. Luckily, there was a whole lot of relationship research in the past year, so we were able to learn a lot.

Here were the highlights of what studies and surveys discovered about relationships in 2016, because being bored isn't necessarily a bad thing.

1That Sleep Makes A Big Difference

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Sleep isn't only good for you, it's good for your relationship too. And 2016 research confirmed that and proved that how we sleep together also matters.

Firstly, research from Florida State University found that sleeping more than average predicts happier relationships. Add this to research that showed 75 percent of couples go to sleep at different times and that most people are kept up by their partner — and we start to see that sleeping patterns are as important to your relationship as anything else you do together.

2That Being In A Relationship Doesn't Stop People From Masturbating

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...and it shouldn't! A study of 1,200 Americans conducted by sex toy company TENGA found that while single people masturbate an average of 16 times a month, those in a relationship masturbate an average of 10 times.

3That Tinder Isn't Ruining Them

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Sorry, app-haters. I'm all for spending less time on the phone and more time living your life, but dating apps are not the end of relationships and romance. Research from the University of Sydney looked at Tinder users and found that the app could actually be good for relationships— giving people more choices and a sense of agency.

"On the surface, the proliferation of hookup apps might make it seem seem as though romance is dead and all anyone (particularly men) is looking for is sex," relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW tells Bustle. "But once we scratch the surface it seems that people are not that different today from how they always were... If most people try their best to be loyal and monogamous while in a relationship, why should they be any different just because the relationship was started from an app?" It's time we get over the stigma.

4That They're Shaped By Our Childhoods

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We know that we carry stuff from our childhoods into adulthood, but research done this year showed just how profound and complex the connection between childhood and adult romantic relationships is. The study in Psychological Science by Robert Waldinger, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, and Marc Schulz, a psychologist at Bryn Mawr College followed the same group of men from 1938— for decades. The study found that those with warmer childhoods and more stable backgrounds— from all incomes— were better at navigating complex relationships into adulthood.

"We had made an educated guess based on theory and previous research that there would be continuity between childhood experiences and the quality of late-life relationships," Schulz tells Bustle. "To our knowledge, no previous study has been able to look at this question because of the challenges related to systematically following individuals over this long a period. Given all that transpires in six or seven decades, we still find it remarkable that there are lawful connections across this long a period."

But if you had a less than warm upbringing, don't panic. So did I, so did a lot of people. It's not a death sentence for your relationships, just important to keep in mind.

5That Boredom Can Be Good For Your Relationship

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I know, boredom sounds like the kiss of death for a relationship, but this year psychologists argued that it can be good. Researchers from the U.S., Germany, and Canada found that boredom actually activates your brain in a way that makes it easier to come up with new ideas, so it can help jump-start your relationship. Our prefrontal cortex is highly active and it spurs us to be more creative— so if you acknowledge that you're bored and brainstorm, you may come up with your best date night yet.  

6That They're Not Necessarily Better Than Being Single

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More and more, we're realizing that being in a relationship just to be in a relationship is not the answer. In fact, a study presented at the American Psychological Association's Annual Convention found that being single could be more fulfilling, due to greater personal growth and development.

Being in a bad relationship is the most stressful thing in the world, so make sure you're not missing out on important personal growth just to be in any relationship that comes along.

7That They Develop At Unexpected Paces

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A really interesting survey of 2,000 users from Match showed when we reach major relationship milestones — and the order might surprise you. For example, we say "I love you" (at 144 days) before we update our Facebook profiles about our relationship (at 157 days). Not only that, 31 percent of us are ready to kiss on the first date, but 34 percent of us would want to wait a week or two to hold hands. Oh, and right around six months is when things get real. We reveal our imperfections (at 173 days) and have our first fight (at 170 days), but if you can make it through that then you're on track for the long-term.

It's a lot of information to take on board, but I think it's fascinating to look at relationship trends as a whole. It can help us understand our own relationships and those around us. And, if you use the information correctly, it can make life just a bit easier.