By Shana Lebowtiz
Why do some relationships end in marriage while others unravel? It seems like a complicated question — and it is, except maybe not quite as complicated as you might think.
According to 2015 research, led by Brian Ogolsky, Catherine A. Surra, and J. Kale Monk, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and The Pennsylvania State University at Harrisburg and cited on Science of Relationships, you can help predict the eventual outcome of a relationship by figuring out which of four patterns it fits into.
As it turns out, relationships that fit a dramatic pattern— meaning there are lots of ups and downs — are most likely to result in a breakup.
For the study, researchers looked at nearly 400 heterosexual dating couples between ages 19 and 35. Over the course of nine months, the researchers conducted a number of interviews, during which they asked participants to indicate how likely it was that they thought they would marry their partners.
If the participants were either more or less sure that they would marry their partner than they were during the previous interview, the researchers asked them to indicate why.
Using the feedback from the interviews, the researchers generated four commitment patterns. Here’s how they broke it down:
The researchers write: “Dramatic commitments appear to have a relatively turbulent progression toward commitment that is riddled with negative views of the relationship.”
This finding supports other research suggesting that relationships with a lot of conflict aren’t especially prone to breakups. (Instead, it may be more about how you fight.)
People in partner-focused relationships tended to spend a lot of their time together, as opposed to with their separate groups of friends. (In fact, research suggests that trying new things together may be one of the keys to a successful relationship.)
These findings suggest that the trajectory of your relationship may be more important than the average level of commitment.
For scientists, that means it might be wiser to measure these changes over time instead of taking a “snapshot” on one day in the lab. As for the rest of us, that gives us one more data point to use when assessing the strength of our relationships.
If you have an “off” day — or for that matter, a really great day — that doesn’t say a lot about the future of your relationship. Instead, think about how your thoughts and feelings about the relationship have changed since you first started dating, and why.
It’s hardly the only predictor of whether you’ll break up or get married, but it’s probably a good one.
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Originally published at www.businessinsider.com