Do relationships get stronger over time?
Some relationships are built to last. Others break down or drift apart over time. But new research is showing that the longer you stay together, the less likely you are to break up.
While it may seem that couples who stay together longer are at more risk of splitting up – fading sparks, monotonous routines, increasing arguments, etc. – a new study has shown that the opposite is actually true.
The study, carried out by sociologist Michael Rosenfeld, looked at long-term data on over 3,000 people to try and fill in some unknowns about how and why relationships end. What Rosenfeld observed is that the longer a relationship lasts, the safer it is from breaking down.
There also seems to be a link between marriage and longevity, with both straight and gay married couples more likely to stay together than their unmarried counterparts.
This may be because marriage is a binder for couples (and because there are greater hurdles to ending a marriage than an unmarried relationship), or it may just be that couples who are less likely to split up are more likely to choose to get married in the first place.
Time does seem to make it more likely that two people will stay together, and it’s a fairly quick process. The graph below suggests that once a relationship survives the first year, it becomes dramatically less likely to end, and continues to get more resilient over the first five years, levelling out about 15 years in.
According to researcher Michael Rosenfeld, the longer a couple stays together, the more hurdles they have cleared together. They have both invested time and energy in the relationship and are bound together by their experiences, making them more invested in staying together.