research findings into couples in long-term relationships (married and de facto) – to gain a deeper understanding into the complexities of couple relationships [Source: Child Family Community Australia][1] | Key Messages

research findings into couples in long-term relationships (married and de facto) – to gain a deeper understanding into the complexities of couple relationships [Source: Child Family Community Australia][1] | Key Messages

  • An active engagement in behaviours that are supportive of the relationship is needed to maintain relationship stabilitysimply wanting the relationship to continue is not enough.
  • For women, this engagement is reflected in constructive approaches to solving relationship problems,
  • however, for men constructive problem solving is related to being more satisfied with the relationship.
  • Similarities between partners, and viewing partners through rose-coloured glasses, appears to

support marital satisfaction, although there are some differences in this between men and women.

  • the nature of pre- and early marriage interactions and men’s satisfaction with the relationship across the transition to parenthood can influence the long-term stability of the relationship
  • Relationship quality has an impact on health in later life therefore investing in the quality of the

couple relationship can be of benefit to health promotion and intervention strategies.

  • Studies of newlyweds cannot be used to understand couples in longer-term relationships as the

salience of some personality characteristics and behaviours appears to alter over time.

Addressed here are a range of aspects of couple relationships, including:

  1. commitment,
  2. personality traits,
  3. transition to parenthood,
  4. health, and
  5. satisfaction and stability


  • In the past, it has been thought that some couples stay together even though they are unhappy because of:
  • their loyalty (sentiment and devotion) and
  • allegiance (sense of duty or obligation to their partner or the relationship).
  • Key findings of research since 1980s:
  • Partners need to demonstrate a certain level of engagement in supportive behaviours to prevent erosion of the relationship
  • a higher risk of eventual dissolution (measured by the steps taken towards ending the relationship) being found for couples where one partner was less inclined to engage in efforts to maintain the relationship, such as:
    • making sacrifices,
    • apologising,
    • asking about their partner’s feelings,
    • tackling issues.
  • Other findings:
    • Wives who engage in constructive problem-solving interactions, generally were found to have a greater inclination to engage in supportive behaviours of their partner.
    • In contrast, husbands’ behaviour in problem-solving tasks was associated with their relationship satisfaction, with more constructive behaviours demonstrated by those with greater satisfaction.

Personality traits

  • Relationships research has consistently found that the personality trait of neuroticism[2] has a strong negative impact on relationship satisfaction.
  • relatively higher levels of conscientiousness were related to higher marital satisfaction for husbands and wives, while relatively higher levels of neuroticism were related to lower satisfaction only for husbands.
  • Generally speaking, individual partners feel happier when their spouse or partner has a “shinier” view of them than they have of themselves.

Transitioning to parenthood[3]


  • A considerable evidence base has accumulated documenting the relationship between health and marital quality, for example that better health is associated with being in a satisfying marriage
  • the findings suggest that aspects of an individual’s relationship could be engaged to support health-related activities or interventions

Relationship satisfaction

  • analysis showed that the way that partners interact at the very beginning of their marriage, that is, the intensity of problems, negative communication patterns and invalidation of emotions, sets the couple up for a gradual erosion of positivity across the life of the relationship
  • research shows that this aspect of a couple’s relationship is particularly amenable to educative interventions and skills development – in particular:
    • building a strong foundation of awareness and understanding—of themselves and
    • each other,
    • understanding the patterns of communication and conflict (and their resolution)

[1] Parker, R., & Commerford J. (2014).

[2] One of the big 5 personality (Openness – contrasts traits such as imagination and curiosity with shallowness

and imperceptiveness; Conscientiousness – traits range from organisation and thoroughness to carelessness and negligence; Extraversion –  traits range from talkativeness and assertiveness to silence and passivity; Agreeableness – contrasts traits such as kindness and trust with hostility and selfishness; Neuroticism – OCEAN). Individuals who score high on neuroticism are more likely than average to be moody and to experience such feelings as anxiety, worry, fear, anger, frustration, envy, jealousy, guilt, depressed mood, and loneliness. People who are neurotic respond worse to stressors and are more likely to interpret ordinary situations as threatening and minor frustrations as hopelessly difficult.

[3] Not included.


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