Are you satisfied?
We know that happiness is subjective: one person’s happy outcome is another person’s sad result. The subjective nature of happiness extends to our partner relationships too as a new study illustrates by showing that your satisfaction with your romantic partner depends not only on how you feel they compare to others but how they compare to you.
The new study involved almost 300 men and women who had been in relationships (not with each other) for an average of 7.5 years. Each subject rated the importance of 27 personality traits in an ideal mate and then indicated the extent to which they felt these traits were present in both their actual partner and in themselves. The subjects also undertook a questionnaire that evaluated their relationship satisfaction and happiness.
Your satisfaction with your romantic partner depends not only on how you feel they compare to others but how they compare to you.
It emerged that satisfaction in a relationship was dependent not only on how ideal a partner may be but also on how the subject’s perceived they compared to their partner.
Those subjects who had partners that they thought were more desirable than themselves were satisfied with their relationship whether or not their partners matched their ideal preferences. However, subjects with partners that they perceived as less desirable than themselves were satisfied only if their partner fulfilled their idea of an ideal partner better than most other potential partners in the group.
In a follow up study it also emerged that if people thought their partners were difficult to replace, either because their partner was more desirable than themselves or because they more closely matched their partner ideal than other members of their group, were happier and more likely make efforts to retain their partner.
So it’s really not a matter of how absolutely ideal your partner is but how relatively ideal they are; to both the group and to you. It is, as they say, all relative.