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Personality Research articles on personality

15Feb/120

Romantic Compatibility: An Empirical Look

Researchers have generally found assortative mating is the rule in romantic pairings, i.e. like attracts like (1) (2). I found a similar pattern when analyzing data from older personality tests from this site.

I recently constructed a new romantic compatibility test based on that data. Along with new questions/structure and a new compatibility formula (based on empirical data not theory), I added some research questions for users to answer in order to gather more data/insight.

The test has a self report version (where one person answers for both partners) but as you will see further below I found users generally over report similarity with their partner compared to when partners fill out the test separately. So except where specified, all the data discussed here is from romantic partners who took the same personality inventory, separately.

I threw out the data of all partners who had dated less than six months and partners who had never had sex, so all the data discussed here came from couples who have been in a committed sexual relationship for at least six months. The average relationship length of the sample size was @75 weeks (about a year and half). The sample size was 294 heterosexual couples. I didn't have enough homosexual couples to generate any useful separate results so I removed them.

The following are the research questions I asked both partners.

q1. How long have you been in a relationship with your partner?
q2. How would you rate your overall satisfaction with the relationship from 1 to 10
q3. How would you rate your sex life with your partner on a scale from 1 to 10
q4. How would you rate the quality of conversations with your partner on a scale from 1 to 10
q5. How would you rate the physical attractiveness of your partner on a scale from 1 to 10
q6. How would you rate the compatibility of your partner's life path with your own on a scale from 1 to 10
q7. How would you rate the physical chemistry you have with your partner on a scale from 1 to 10

Test takers were instructed that their answers on the above items would not be shared with their partners and were strictly for research purposes only.

male average scores

length overall sex convo beauty life path phys chem
74.82 wks 8.22 7.47 7.59 8.81 7.74 8.44

female average scores

length overall sex convo beauty life path phys chem
75.67 wks 7.72 7.29 7.38 8.67 7.28 8.36

male correlations

length overall sat sex convo beauty life path phys chem
q1 - -.091 -.074 -.123 -.156 -.028 -.095
q2 -0.091 - .525 .662 .497 .576 .533
q3 -0.074 0.525 - .445 .416 .288 .557
q4 -0.123 0.662 0.445 - .404 .504 .478
q5 -0.156 0.497 0.416 0.404 - .345 .559
q6 -0.028 0.576 0.288 0.504 0.345 - .403
q7 -0.095 0.533 0.557 0.478 0.559 0.403 -

female correlations

length overall sat sex convo beauty life path phys chem
q1 - -.048 -.011 -.141 -.118 .019 -.145
q2 -0.048 - .501 .647 .504 .571 .519
q3 -0.011 0.501 - .411 .428 .256 .612
q4 -0.141 0.647 0.411 - .421 .458 .492
q5 -0.118 0.504 0.428 0.421 - .307 .581
q6 -0.019 0.571 0.256 0.458 0.307 - .320
q7 -0.145 0.519 0.612 0.492 0.581 0.320 -

All the correlations were significant (alpha=0.050) except for those in italics.  Male and female correlations were fairly similar. Overall relationship satisfaction correlated most to conversation quality, and then fairly similarly to all other questions. Length of relationship negatively correlated to a small degree with most every research question which corresponds to findings in other studies (3).

28 of the couples (roughly 10%) rated their overall romantic satisfaction at 1, 2, 3, or 4 out of 10.

Dissatisfied partners (67% women)

overall sex convo beauty life path phys chem
3.357 4.428 3.75 6.5 4.321 5.821

Their partners

overall sex convo beauty life path phys chem
6.071 6.071 5.357 8.428 5.642 7.285

Conversation seems to be the key item of dissatisfaction that contributes to the low overall satisfaction scores. Their partners were clearly not oblivious to the problems in the relationship as their ratings are also far below average (even though they are far higher than their more dissatisfied partners). Women also seem to outnumber men by a factor of two in being very unsatisfied in this particular sample.

Romantic Compatibility Test

The romantic compatibility inventory taken by the couples in this sample contains 60 items related to roughly 20 traits I've found previously to correlate to romantic compatibility (although the test items/traits will change based on ongoing research).

self reports separate reports
Religious 0.650 0.587
Hedonism 0.574 0.452
Family drive 0.423 0.505
Aesthetic taste 0.750 0.386
Wealth 0.567 0.299
Obesity 0.448 0.245
Mystical 0.519 0.296
Narcissism 0.345 0.116
Orderliness -0.079 -0.001
Self Image 0.347 0.254
Artistic 0.385 0.313
Extravagance 0.400 0.117
Materialism 0.482 0.118
Work ethic 0.175 0.091
Sex drive 0.129 0.072
Romantic 0.339 -0.003
Accountability 0.141 -0.049
Physical activity 0.241 0.166
Accommodation 0.041 0.015
Intellectual 0.381 0.216

The self report correlations suggest individuals perceive their partners to be far more like them on many traits than the actual separate reports show. Although, interestingly both self and separate reports show agreement that Orderliness and Accommodation don't correlate in romantic partners, i.e. two messy people (or two nice people) don't necessarily end up with each other any more often than a clean and a messy (or nice and selfish) coupling.

Only one of the traits correlated significantly to the research questions and that was female (but not male) Sex Drive. It correlated to several of the research questions in both men and women.

male correlations

length overall sex convo beauty life path phys chem
-0.051 0.157 0.417 0.154 0.183 0.015 0.230 sex drive

female correlations

length overall sex convo beauty life path phys chem
0.035 0.348 0.079 0.158 -0.070 0.229 -0.051 sex drive

Females who self rated highly on the Sex Drive trait rated their overall relationship satisfaction far more favorably. Men rated the quality of their sex life higher or lower based on whether they were with high or low Sex Drive females (however the effect on their overall relationship satisfaction was much smaller). Materialistic and high Work Ethic women (but not men) showed a small but statistically significant trend of lower ratings on all relationship quality questions.

Discussion / Conclusions

Self report romantic compatibility tests have limited accuracy/utility because people misreport their partners personality preferences (i.e. people don't know their partners as well as they think they do). However, separate report romantic compatibility results show surprising similarities in what men and women prefer/value in a romantic relationship.

If you wanted to decant the insight of this research into an informal questionnaire to give your partner or prospective partners, these are the most important questions you should ask...

How important is Religion/God in your life?
How often do you drink/smoke/do drugs?
How interested in / important is having having a family for you?
What kind of artistic things do you like (music/movies/books/etc.)?
Where are you headed in life?

If the answers you get to one or more of the above questions are not favorably compatible with your own answers to the same questions, the averages are against you in working as a couple.

If you are trying to figure out if you like someone sufficiently, you should ask yourself the following?

Do I find him/her sufficiently physically attractive?
Do I find him/her sufficiently interesting to talk to?
Do I sufficiently enjoy having sex with him/her?
Are our life paths sufficiently compatible?

Again, if your answers to one or more of the above questions are not highly favorable (i.e. way more yes than no, way closer to 10 than zero), the averages are very much against you in working with that particular person (the practical meaning of which is, you probably don't work).

Besides the above questions, you can also utilize the romantic compatibility test on this site - http://similarminds.com/compatibility2.html

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