Happier couples had a healthy sex life and an equal balance of economic power.
Love & Money is a MarketWatch series looking at how our relationship with money and consumerism impacts our relationships with significant others, friends and family.
What does it take to be happy in love?
Dating website eHarmony, a company founded in 2000 to find heterosexual couples long-term relationships, asked more than 2,300 people who have a partner of the same or opposite sex whether they were content in their relationship. The survey, conducted in conjunction with Harris Interactive, zeroed in on eight factors that the happiest respondents had in common.
Women place more value on emotional and financial stability, while men tend to find happiness, physical attraction and health as the most desirable traits.
Five of the eight factors: They had a healthy sex life and an equal balance of economic power, were most likely to be younger (between the ages of 25 and 44), have two kids, each earn at least $75,000 a year and have a B.A. than their unhappier counterparts. Couples also noted two more things: Improved awareness of social justice issues and similar political convictions correlated with happiness.
“Education and political similarities are more important now than they were five years ago,” Grant Langston, chief executive officer of eHarmony told MarketWatch. “Many of the happiest couples vote and are also very aware of social justice issues.” In fact, some people are adamant about not dating people from the opposite of the political spectrum, he added.
But men and women seem to differ in what they think makes their partner happy. “Men think that women want gifts, but women want words of affirmation,” Langston said. Aside from the obvious attractions of a healthy physique, people said they found happy, stable and intelligent people desirable. In fact, he said these qualities were deemed as important as a regular sex life.
Here’s what else eHarmony found
• 70% report sharing a life together is more important than marriage, although 55% said marriage would make their relationship happier.
• 44% of couples said they’re dealing with mental-health issues in their relationship, which may include depression, anxiety, ADHD or bipolar disorder.
• Only 1 in 5 women reported feeling more empowered as a result of #MeToo and 32% of men said they feel less confident to make the first move with a woman.
• Those who sought a long-term relationship from the outset were 11% happier than those who were seeking something casual when they first met.
• Women place more value on emotional and financial stability, while men tend to find happiness, physical attraction and health as the most desirable traits in a mate.
• 42% of people consider their relationship equal in terms of power and economics, whereas only 26% of unhappy couples said the same thing.
• Over 60% of LGBT couples say their relationship is more focused on quality time than sex, although they tend to have more sex than their heterosexual counterparts.
eHarmony and LGBT singletons
eHarmony has a complicated history with matching same-sex couples. In 2005, Eric McKinley, a gay man from New Jersey, filed a complaint against eHarmony for not catering to LGBT people. In 2008, eHarmony agreed to pay McKinley $5,000 and provide him with one-year complimentary membership. eHarmony was not found in violation of any law, but agreed to provide an LGBT dating service under a separate brand, Compatible Partners.
eHarmony’s legal counsel in that case, Theodore Olson, said in 2008 that the complain was an “unfair” characterization of the business, but agreed to settle. In response to the settlement, Olson said the case “had been a burden for the company, and continuing to advance its business model of serving individuals by helping them find successful, long-term relationships.” However, the company maintains two separate brands for LGBTQ and heterosexual couples.
Men and women often look for different things
An earlier 2015 study published in the peer-reviewed academic journal “Personality and Individual Differences” said women felt it was more important that their partner made at least as much money as they did (46% versus 24% of men) and had a successful career (61% versus 33% of men), while men favored a slender body (80% versus 58% of women).
Men were more focused on looks whereas women said financial status was more important in choosing a partner. Men with higher incomes showed stronger preferences for women with slender bodies, while women with higher incomes preferred men who had a steady income, the survey of 28,000 heterosexual men and women aged between 18 and 75.
Debt, however, is a no-no when it comes to choosing a partner. More than 77% of people consider credit-card debt an unattractive trait in a mate, according to a recent report released by personal-finance site Finder.com. On average, people say $11,525 in credit-card debt is enough of a red flag to swipe left or walk away from a potential partner.
Payday loans, which can have rates as high as 400%, are the second most unacceptable forms of debt for daters. As such, it only takes a payday loan of $1,830 to turn off a potential partner. Given that Americans carry $1.5 trillion in student debt, student loans are also off-putting to prospective dates and, on average, anything above $51,000 could be a deal-breaker.