Asking 10 “critical” questions before embarking on a serious relationship can help couples thrive, a new study suggests.
Long-term relationships last when they are built on friendship, respect, realistic expectations, shared interests and humour.
Evidence from couples, as well as family lawyers, mediators and judges has helped identify the 10 key aspects of a relationship which other couples can use to reflect on to see if they are likely to thrive and stand the test of time.
Continuing to ask the 10 critical questions can also help couples build their relationship. The 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?
The study, which was conducted by the University of Exeter, has been supported by Baroness Shackleton, a famous divorce lawyer, who has represented the likes of the Prince of Wales, Sir Paul McCartney and Liam Gallagher.
Professor Anne Barlow, who led the research, said: “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.
“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 said: “Wearing my ‘professional hat’ – as a divorce lawyer for over 40 years – more than 50% 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.
“Wearing my ‘educational hat’, as a former school governor, I am acutely aware that whilst there is much school directed education on ‘sex’, ‘drugs’ and ‘alcohol’, there is little or none in relation to the most important decision a person makes – namely with whom you settle down and have children.
“Finally, wearing my ‘philanthropic hat’ and 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.
“If as a consequence of this, fundamentally incompatible partnerships are prevented, it will have been money well spent.”
The experts interviewed 10 divorce lawyers/mediators and two judges to ask them the key reasons relationships fail.
They also interviewed 43 couples married for 10 years, or who had separated during this period, and 10 other couples in same-sex and opposite-sex relationships, who had been living together, married or in a civil partnership for at least 15 years.
The lawyers and judges identified four common reasons for relationships to break down.
These are incompatibility, unrealistic expectations, failure to deal with issues and failure to nurture the relationship.