2018 may have been the year of the woman — with a record-breaking number of women candidates running for office, and celebrities and non-celebrities alike fighting back against sexual harassment across a number of other industries — but it was at home where much of the positive social change took place for American couples.
The second national report “The Happiness Index: Love and Relationships in America,” commissioned by eharmony and conducted by Harris Interactive, shows that 83 percent of Americans are “happy” in their romantic relationships with a partner or spouse. Only one in nine people in a relationship are extremely or fairly unhappy.
This year a strong correlation between relationship happiness and having a genuine interest and awareness of social justice issues emerged, proving to be even more important than a partner’s status as a breadwinner or working outside the home. Those couples who reported being more culturally aware of today’s social movements, such as #MeToo, as well as being open about mental health, reported increased relationship happiness. In addition, happy couples are more likely to have voted in the 2018 midterm elections and are much more likely to discuss politics and have political discourse with a spouse or partner. Still, there’s room for improvement. Only one in five women reported feeling more empowered as a result of #MeToo and 32 percent of men say they feel less confident to make the first move with a woman.
The study also reveals that this increased awareness gives couples all the feels when it comes to love: 70 percent of Americans report sharing a life together is more important than marriage, and 63 percent say being in love is most important.
“Our survey results encapsulate not just the state of relationships in America, but the state of mind of many Americans as we confront monumental shifts in social norms and expectations as a result of movements like #MeToo,” says Grant Langston, chief executive officer for eharmony. “We feel invigorated by the positivity shown by the youngest couples among us and by those who have embraced a sense of cultural awareness, and it’s clear that for a growing number of people across generations, qualities like intelligence and happiness are considered desirable in a partner.”
In addition, what people look for in a potential partner was also a critical component of this year’s research — it differs for men and women. Men value happiness, physical attractiveness and health in a partner, while women find emotional and financial stability to be the most desirable. How people approach dating plays a substantial role in happiness as well. Those who sought a long-term relationship from the outset were 11 percent happier than those who were seeking something casual when they first met. Surprisingly, 67 percent of men were looking for a long-term relationship when they started dating.
“The data paints a clear picture of what many Americans are looking for. More than 66 percent of people are seeking a real relationship, a meaningful partnership that is built on commitment and love,” said Jeannie Assimos, chief advice officer, eharmony. “By studying the research, we’ve also concluded that straight and LGBT couples alike find more happiness when there is shared power and equality in a relationship.”
Key takeaways from the 2019 study include:
What’s leading to the happiest relationships?
American couples are happy — and the happiest ones tend to be in love, have a healthy sex life, and have an equal balance of power. They’re also most likely to be younger (between the ages of 25-44), have two kids, and are more likely to have a higher personal income of $75,000 plus (more than $150,000 combined in a relationship), and are more educated than their unhappy counterparts. This year, couples also noted that improved social awareness tended to correlate with more relationship happiness.
- An equal partnership where a couple shares the same amount of power/dominance, monogamous relationships, a healthy sex life, and awareness of social issues are key factors that directly correlate with happiness in a relationship
- 70 percent report sharing a life together is more important than marriage, still though, 55 percent of Americans say marriage would make their relationship happier
- If respondents did choose to get hitched, the average age they did so was 29 years old and love was their reason for getting married
- Having frequent sex, i.e. daily or weekly, is a key driver of happiness
- Sharing the same political allegiance is critical to a happy relationship
- Happy couples are more likely to have voted at the 2018 midterm elections and are much more likely to discuss politics and have political discourse with a spouse or partner
How has the #MeToo movement impacted relationships?
The #MeToo movement has catalyzed both celebrities and non-celebrities alike to join together in the fight against gender discrimination in the workplace, especially sexual harassment and assault. But from Hollywood to Main Street, while the majority of women (and men) are expressing outrage that the problem has gone on for so long, some are finding it difficult to move forward in positive ways back at home. While nearly half of women feel more empowered at work as a result of the movement, they tended to say they did not feel empowered in their romantic relationships. As for men, a third of them are feeling less confident to approach women first, while those in relationships report the movement has had a positive impact.
- 68 percent of perfectly happy relationships are very familiar with the #MeToo movement — and people who describe themselves as being culturally aware in general tend to be happiest in their relationships
- 45 percent agree that the movement has made women feel more empowered in the workplace
- However, only 20 percent of women feel more empowered in their relationship as a result of the movement
- 39 percent of men report their confidence has been negatively affected
- However, men in relationships report the movement has had a positive impact on their relationship
What do men and women want?
As social and cultural norms shift at the workplace, so too do the terms of relationships at home. Today’s relationships are driven by much more than looks, with significantly more emphasis on deeper, more meaningful connections. So what do men and women say they want in a modern partnership in 2019? Equality, intelligence and happiness. In addition, both sexes find that seeking a committed relationship from the outset is more fulfilling.
- Those who sought a long-term relationship from the outset were 11 percent happier than those who were seeking something casual when they first met. Surprisingly, 67 percent of men were looking for a long-term relationship when they started dating.
- Overall for both men and women, being happy and intelligent are the most desirable characteristics of their partner
- Looking at the sexes separately, women do place more value on emotional and financial stability than men, while men tend to find happiness, physical attraction and health as the most desirable traits in a partner
- Opposites do not attract: Similarity is a main driver of happiness in a relationship
- Sharing personality traits is the strongest predictor of relationship happiness after having sex on a regular basis
- Also similar education, income, political allegiance and power in the relationship make couples substantially more happy than average
How do we communicate love?
Compromise is the name of the game for those in committed relationships. When disagreements come up, even the youngest respondents indicated that a mutual compromise was the most common resolution. Further, ‘words of affirmation’ was listed as the most important love language, above ‘gift giving’ and ‘physical touch,’ meaning that how we verbalize our commitment is shaping our perception of love perhaps now more than ever before.
- More than half of Americans indicate that disagreements are usually resolved through mutual compromise. This proportion peaks among younger respondents, again indicating that relationships are beginning to change. 92 percent of men say they are more likely to compromise first.
- Out of the five love languages (words of affirmation, gifts, quality time, acts of service and physical touch), the happiest relationships are those that place the most importance on words of affirmation, while gift giving is perceived to be least important
- Men value gift giving significantly more than women
- Millennials are least likely to consider physical touch as the most important love language
- Spending quality time together is valued more highly among Gen Z than other generations
Mental health matters
As the country grows more socially and culturally aware of important issues affecting people on a large scale — from suicide to mass shootings — a greater emphasis has been made on taking care of one’s mental health. While anxiety and depression were listed as the most common mental health issues on the survey, the majority of couples were willing to share their issues with their spouse or partner. Most importantly, an inability to be open about those issues correlated with unhappy relationships.
- More than four in ten couples (44 percent) are affected by mental health issues (ADHD, anxiety, depression)
- Anxiety is the most common mental health issue followed by depression, and women are more likely to experience anxiety than men
- Gen Z has the highest proportion of couples with mental health problems (56 percent)
- 80 percent of respondents share their mental health issues with their spouse/partner, with willingness to do so peaking among Gen Z
- For more than 50 percent of couples, their relationship has had a positive impact on their mental health issues, rising to 70 percent among Gen Z
- Respondents who report being unhappy in their relationships aren’t able to discuss their mental health issues openly with their partners
Monogamy and commitment
It’s clear that Americans want committed relationships, but that doesn’t necessarily mean marriage. Those who sought a long-term relationship from the outset when they first met tended to be happiest. And in line with last year’s Happiness Index Report, this year’s survey confirmed that monogamous people are more likely to be happy in a relationship.
- Those who sought a long-term relationship from the outset when they first they met their current spouse/partner are happiest
- 44 percent of the happiest couples married for love
- Those that balance quality time and sex are happier than those who skew their focus towards one or the other
- Only five percent of American couples are in a non-monogamous relationships, three percent of those being polygamous and two percent polyamorous. Whilst still very much a minority, men are much more likely than women to be polygamous or polyamorous.
- Monogamous people are happier than polygamous/polyamorous (38 percent vs 26 percent)
- Millennials, Gen Z and men are relatively more likely to admit being non-monogamous (eight percent of Millennials; six percent of Gen Z)
- LGBT relationships are much more likely to be polygamous/polyamorous than heterosexual relationships (24 percent vs five percent)
Americans have been strongly reminded of longstanding gender biases and inequality this last year due to an overwhelmingly positive response following the #MeToo movement. For many years, unfortunately, the genders were not treated equally, for women especially, in the workplace and at home. Our culture’s patriarchal influence on social norms and practices has played a major role in creating these power inequalities between men and women. However, gender roles are changing. Men and women have adapted (whether that be consciously or subconsciously) and are working toward more equal relationships today.
- 53 percent of women say power is shared equally in their relationship
- For happy relationships, 42 percent of people consider their relationship of equal levels of dominance compared to unhappy couples where only 26 percent considered their relationship of equal levels of dominance
- 42 percent of men believe they are most dominant in their relationships. Though, when there is power imbalance, it is more pronounced in relation to managing household finances and owning household chore responsibilities than for other activities.
- While many women say power is shared in their household, men tend to be more responsible for making important decisions and women for managing household chores. Men are also particularly dominant in the bedroom.
- Generation Z under-index on all roles – indicating that relationships are becoming more equal over time
Sex is an essential ingredient of happy relationships. Happy couples have sex often and are very satisfied with their sex life — but stress can have a negative impact. Still, those who are happiest do place importance on the connection that comes from both sex and quality time, and are even more likely to be sexually adventurous, meaning they are more open-minded to new activities in the bedroom.
- 69 percent of men orgasm frequently with their partners, versus only 51 percent of women
- Sex is important for nearly half of people in a relationship (47 percent) and a similar proportion express satisfaction with their current sex life
- However more than 40 percent say stress has a negative impact on their sex life, especially Millennials
- 11 percent include people outside the couple in their sex life
LGBT + Love
As greater social awareness continues to shape the dating landscape, this year’s survey included input from LGBT couples on the state of their unions. LGBT couples said they tend to have more sex than their heterosexual counterparts, and tend to view themselves as having more balanced partnerships. They’re also focused on spending quality time together.
- LGBT couples view themselves more as equals
- LGBT couples tend to have sex more often than the national average
- Love is by far the primary reason for getting married for LGBT couples
- In line with the national average, more than 60 percent of LGBT couples say their relationship is more focused on quality time than on sex
Want to learn more about the “The Happiness Index: Love and Relationships in America”? Visit https://www.eharmonyhappinessindex.com/ and join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using #happyinlove.
About “The Happiness Index: Love and Relationships in America” Report
“The Happiness Index: Love and Relationships in America” 2019 report was commissioned by eharmony and conducted by Harris Interactive. This is the second year of the Happiness Index survey. It was fielded online between Dec. 13, 2018 and Jan. 3, 2019 with 2,327 online interviews conducted. Participants (both heterosexual and LGBT) qualified if they were aged 21+ and were married, cohabiting, or in a long-term relationship. Results were weighted to be nationally representative by age, gender, and region.
Los Angeles, California-based eharmony helps people find meaningful relationships that enrich their lives. Founded in 2000, eharmony is a pioneer in using algorithms to create highly compatible relationships based on key dimensions of personality that predict the most compatible, highly successful, long-term relationships. eharmony operates in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Singapore and Australia. For more information visit www.eharmony.com or download the app available on iOS and Android.