What Type of People Have More Successful Relationships?

From the Lecture Series: Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior

By Mark Leary, Ph.D., Duke University

Is it psychologically correct to ask what type of people have more successful relationships? It is. There are some characteristics that can lead to higher success in any kind of relationship, and some people are born with them. Read on to find out what they are and if they can be learned eventually.

Young couple sitting together on beach
Successful relationships have some simple requirements, but getting the requirements in both individuals involved is complicated. (Image: Bit Investment/Shutterstock)

Personal relationships are usually a top priority for many people. They try to choose a partner that can bring happiness into their lives, yet, many keep failing at relationships. Is there a secret to maintaining successful relationships and living happily ever after?

Relationship Science

People value their intimate relationships. Every regular person tries to keep their relationship as successful as possible. However, if you look around, it seems like failed relationships are much more common than successful relationships. In fact, sometimes people end up hating a person they loved the most.

Male and female hands joined together with red roses around them.
Relationship science tries to understand relationships and factors in their failure or success. (Image: Jet Cat Studio/Shutterstock)

Relationship science is quite new, but has been very fruitful already. There are specific criteria that create unsuccessful or successful relationships. Much of the research has focused on marriages, but most of the findings apply to other kinds of close relationships as well, including cohabiting partnerships and dating relationships, and to both heterosexual and homosexual relationships.

Learn more about why prejudice and conflict are so common.

Divorce Rate

The probability of divorce is around 50% in the United States. The divorce rate suddenly increased in the 1980s and did not really decline. However, it does not necessarily mean that successful relationships belonged to the past, and now people cannot handle relationships anymore.

Many married couples are unhappy, but they do not seek a divorce. It could be that relationships these days are really worse than before, but a more sensible option is that they were almost the same before.

In the past, getting a divorce was not really an option. But now, the stigma associated with being divorced is nearly gone, and state laws now make divorce easier than before.

Another factor is that many more women work nowadays, and they are less dependent on their husbands. If the relationship is not satisfying, they do not need to tolerate it to have access to resources provided by the husband.

This is a transcript from the video series Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior. Watch it now, on The Great Courses Plus.

Characteristics of People

A person’s personality is a fundamental aspect of the success of their relationship. Simply put, some people have more successful relationships because they are simply better relationship partners than other people are.

A disagreeable, hostile, suspicious, or selfish person has, obviously, lower chances of happiness in a relationship. On the contrary, a naturally agreeable, easy-going, trusting, and giving person has a higher potential for being a good partner and maintaining a successful relationship.

People’s characteristics can, to some extent, predict the success of the relationship before it even starts. One long-term study began when the participants were engaged and followed them around for over 40 years. Neuroticism had a bold role in the relationships.

Neuroticism

Neuroticism refers to how much a person tends to experience negative emotions, such as anxiety and anger. The problem is, their mood swings and unhappiness create tension and behavior toward people around them. Thus, people who are higher in neuroticism tend to create less satisfying relationships, both for themselves and for their partners.

In some cases, none of the personal characteristics creates problems on its own, but they do not fit well together. For example, a talkative and energetic extrovert may not feel happy with a quiet introvert who avoids social situations. Each of these people could lead a very successful relationship with a person they are compatible with.

Learn more about why people fall in-and out of-love.

Do Opposites Attract?

In relationships, differences are necessary to some extent, but people are not magnets. They need common grounds and foundations to be able to build a successful relationship on it. A religious person cannot live happily with an atheist. Likewise, a calm, happy person and an anxious, unhappy neurotic cannot lead a relationship either.

Young couple running.
Having similar personalities is much more likely to lead to a happy relationship. (Image: Goran Bogicevic/Shutterstock)

Of course, in some rare cases, it works somehow well. For example, when dominant and submissive people meet. The dominant one wants to be in charge of everything, and the submissive one wants someone to take responsibility.

These cases are too rare to be regarded as a normal thing. People need someone similar to them, at least in fundamental things, to create a happy life with.

Successful relationships depend on more than just some basic factors. They are complicated and difficult, but if the personalities match in fundamentals and the people are agreeable and caring, the chances of success increase significantly.

Common Questions about Successful Relationships

Q: Does personality affect the success of a relationship?

Successful relationships owe much of their success to the personalities of the people involved. When a person is more amiable and flexible, naturally, the potential for relationship success grows.

Q: What is neuroticism?

The degree to which people tend to experience negative emotions, such as anxiety and anger, is neuroticism. People who score high in neuroticism not only tend to experience more bad moods, but their personal unhappiness also leads to more unpleasant and negative interactions with other people. Successful relationships are not easy with neuroticism.

Q: Is divorce the only indication of a failed relationship?

No. divorce is one realization of a failed relationship, but not all marriages are successful relationships even when they last forever. When the couple stops getting along well, the success begins to fade away.

Keep Reading
Agreeableness: The Big Five Personality Types Explained
Neuroticism: The Big Five Personality Types Explained
The Science Behind the Five Major Personality Types