Questioning your expectations and compatibility is key, researchers claim
By Sabrina Barr
How do you know when it’s the right time to take a relationship that’s in its early stages to the next level?
The team spoke to 10 divorce lawyers and mediators and two judges in order to determine the main reasons why relationships may be likely to fail, before interviewing a cohort of couples.
First, the lawyers and judges decided upon the predominant reasons why they think relationships may not work in the long term.
These four reasons were: incompatibility, unrealistic expectations, inability to face issues in the relationship and “failure to nurture” the relationship.
They then interviewed 43 couples who’d either been married for 10 years or had been separated within that time and 10 same-sex and opposite-sex couples who’d either been cohabitating, married or in a civil partnership for 15 years.
The study, which has received support from divorce lawyer Baroness Fiona Shackleton, utilised its findings in order to come up with 10 “critical questions” all couples should supposedly ask in order to test their relationship and help it flourish.
These 10 questions are:
- Are my partner and I a ‘good fit’?
- Do we have a strong basis of friendship?
- Do we want the same things in our relationship and out of life?
- Are our expectations realistic?
- Do we generally see the best in each other?
- Do we both work at keeping our relationship vibrant?
- Do we both feel we can discuss things freely and raise issues with each other?
- Are we both committed to working through hard times?
- When we face stressful circumstances would we pull together to get through it?
- Do we each have supportive others around us?
These questions will help couples assess their true compatibility and durability, explains Professor Anne Barlow of the University of Exeter Law School who led the study.
“Of course every relationship is different, and it is important that couples build relationships that are meaningful to them, but we found thriving relationships share some fundamental qualities,” she says.
“Mostly the couple have chosen a partner with whom they are a ‘good fit’ and have ways of successfully navigating stressful times.
“These 10 critical questions can help people as they decide if they are compatible with a person they are considering sharing their life with and flag the importance of dealing with issues when they arise as well as of nurturing the relationship over time.”
Baroness Shackleton, who has represented members of the royal family in her line of work and celebrities such as Sir Paul McCartney, believes this research could benefit children in schools learning about adult relationships.
“Wearing my ‘professional hat’ – as a divorce lawyer for over 40 years – more than 50 per cent of the people consulting me about divorce have said they realised either before or very soon into their marriages, that they were fundamentally incompatible with their partners,” she says.
“Seeing the untold grief children suffer when their parents separate, I felt it time to sponsor a project exploring just what makes a relationship successful and how best to maximise the chances of it succeeding, the idea being to present the resulting research in schools as an educational tool and pre-intervention measure.”
The research team based the final 10 questions on the most important skills that they understood help relationships to endure.
These include skills such as working at the relationship, being realistic about expectations and having a foundation of friendship.
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