Do romantic relationships generally get better over time?
- America’s current longest-married couple is Ralph and Dorothy Kohler, who have been husband and wife for 85 years. Ralph credits their longevity to “their healthy living and agreeable nature.”
- According to Census Bureau survey data, the divorce rate in America hit a 50-year low in 2019. “For every 1,000 marriages...only 14.9 ended in divorce.”
- Psychology Today experts reveal that married couples who prevail beyond the honeymoon phase “...act like they’re still dating; remain focused on each other’s positive traits; express gratitude; and recognize that external pressures may be causing them stress, rather than blaming each other.”
- A Harris Interactive Report on love and happiness in America revealed that money does play a role in relationship happiness. “Household income and relationship happiness have a direct correlation, with the most happy couples making over $200K yearly.”
There is a widely-held belief that relationships start deteriorating after the honeymoon phase--that blissful period at the beginning of a relationship. But, as relationship experts point out, relationships can and do get better over time.
Licensed counselor Natalie Nesbitt explains that long-term relationship success is determined by habits such as open communication, understanding, and flexibility--all of which have nothing to do with how amazing or lackluster a couple's honeymoon period was. She says, 'Maturity is never a bad thing. It may take time to find a great groove that works for each partner.'
And the good thing about staying in a relationship for the long haul is that as couples become more financially secure with time, fights related to money are drastically reduced. According to a recent survey, '...baby boomers and seniors were the least likely to argue with each other about money...' Essentially, the younger a couple is, the more financial stressors--i.e., buying a house, having children, etc.-- they will have.
The emotional components of a relationship also get better with time. Psychotherapist Dr. Perpetua Neo says that unhealthy relationship dynamics can be changed--and a couple can ultimately grow closer together in healthy ways--by simply being honest with each other and spending more time together. Relationship expert Brooke Wise also echoes this approach when discussing mismatched communication styles: time is indeed what will provide healing. She advises that even little things like preferring to text instead of phone each other can be figured out as a couple gets to know each other. And of course, this applies to larger communication issues as well.
Simply put, time and maturity enhance a relationship.
There's a reason for the saying, 'the grass is always greener on the other side,' and it has nothing to do with actual meadows. Over time, being with the same person becomes stale. We aren't made for monogamy or long-term relationships, and forcing yourself and your partner to stay together eventually causes the relationship to deteriorate.
The longer your relationship is with one person, the more familiar and comfortable you become with each other. But this may not be a good thing. We've all heard the phrase, 'familiarity breeds contempt,' well, the reason for this may be in the notion that over time, less effort is exerted by partners to build or sustain a relationship. The newness and excitement of the 'honeymoon period' wear off, and boredom creeps in, with unhappiness and resentment being the result. Unfortunately, unless both partners are really committed to bringing the magic back, couples could linger for years in this state before pulling the plug on something that just isn't working anymore.
However, aside from relationships that begin well and diminish over time, many couplings are problematic right from the start. There may be no amount of couples therapy that could work in cases of habitual cheating, interfering relatives, and toxic arguing.
Another aspect muddying the waters of relationships was revealed in a 2015 study, which found that when people looked at their partners' photos, dopamine was released in their brains. Essentially, romantic feelings can be so strong that they 'can convince people to stay in relationships that are unhealthy, unfulfilling, and ultimately unhappy — whether they realize it or not.' Time won't solve these issues--only ending the relationship will.