The happiest couples are those in which both partners feel that they are able to make major decisions in the relationship according to a new study in the “Journal of Social and Personal relationships” by the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the University of Bamberg.
Robert Körner from the Institute of Psychology at MLU and Professor Astrid Schütz, a personality researcher from the University of Bamberg interviewed 181 heterosexual couples who had been living together for at least one month. The respondents were between 18 and 71 years old and had been in a relationship for an average of eight years.
The survey included questions about the admiration for one’s partner, trust, sexual satisfaction, feelings of domination and control, as well as a commitment and willingness to invest in the relationship.
The need to make decisions in general was stronger among the men with higher income and higher education, interestingly, however, actual and perceived influence rather than income and education influenced how two people in a relationship perceive the power dynamics in their relationship.
Even when men and were very similar with regard to income and education, the feeling that both partners can decide on issues that are important to them was still the most important measure of relationship satisfaction.
“The results surprised us, as earlier research has often suggested a direct link between the balance of power and objective power measured by income” said Körner.
“It appears that the subjective feeling of power and the feeling of being able to act freely significantly impact the quality of the relationship,” Körner continued.
Obviously traditional gender roles have changed. “Romantic relationships have become more equal — especially in western societies”.
In most of these couples, both sexes stated that they were able to assert their preferences when making decisions that are important to them. According to psychologist Schütz, this is not necessarily a contradiction. “Maybe this feeling extends to different aspects of the relationship. Whereas the woman might want to decide on where to go on vacation, the husband chooses where to go for dinner.
One thing to keep in mind is that the sample included rather happy couples, which favours effective negotiation. In other partnerships, there is definitely potential for conflict in this respect. “However, it appears that both parties need to be able to make decisions about aspects that are important to them in order to be satisfied with the relationship” Schütz concludes.