HOW DO YOU know if you and your partner are going to last? You don’t, sorry. But there are some key factors that could improve your chances, a recent survey has found. These include having sex seven times a month and avoiding going to bed angry, according to a survey of 2,000 British couples, commissioned for the launch of a TV show called Love & Death.
While perhaps lacking in scientific rigour, the survey was robust enough to reiterate the same two hackneyed but nevertheless logical responses these kinds of surveys always elicit.
Regular sex is a reasonable barometer for overall relationship satisfaction. Seven times a month is a fantastically precise amount with some intriguing implications: on a four-week cycle you might have sex twice a week for three weeks of a month, then only once on one week. It also adds up to 84 times a year, which is close enough to a century for the more aspirational among us to want to push on to three figures, maybe by going hell-for-leather in the final week of the year. Seven times a month is also a wonderfully nebulous but possibly incredibly meaningful figure; it’s likely a doddle for those in the first flushes of romance, an aspirational but achievable (with a bit of spit and elbow grease) goal for others, a hilarious pipe dream for many.
As for anger, if you’re living with someone, it’s in your best interests to get along. I do take issue with the importance of not going to bed angry, having previously achieved productive results by going to bed furious then waking up in the morning and making up. Sleep helps douse rage, the morning carries with it the promise and optimism of a new day and what seemed like an insurmountable obstacle the previous night—the amount of junk blocking the hallway—can look rather trivial in the morning.
So no, the survey’s headline results didn’t reveal anything new. But dig a little deeper into the ‘data’ and there are some more utilitarian factors cited that I would argue are critical in a relationship’s long-term outlook.
Twenty per cent of the couples surveyed said liking the same TV programs was important. Let me tell you, those 20 per cent are smart cookies. The streaming age has completely transformed the dynamic of modern relationships. For many couples, particularly those who cohabit and so therefore don’t go out on dates that much or likely have sex seven times a month, sitting down on the couch to watch a show together may be the only time you actually spend together that doesn’t involve any form of obligation or commitment. In that sense, liking the same shows becomes crucial to optimising that time together.
But if you’re watching a show, you’re not really talking to each other? But nothing. A good show is something you can digest together and discuss at length afterwards. Many is the time my wife and I have gone to bed discussing a character’s motivations, comparing notes on plot, debating red herrings and stating that this character reminds us of so-and-so.
As we get closer to episode eight or nine of a real banger of a show (The White Lotus was relationship superglue), I begin to get anxious. With the series winding up I know that I will miss the characters—I dearly miss Richie from The Bear—but I’ll also miss the conversational fodder the show has furnished our relationship with. I would also argue, though I haven’t run the numbers on this, that we have more sex when we are watching shows together, simply because we are talking more afterwards.
My wife and I are fortunate that we like the same shows about 80 per cent of the time. But when we don’t, our relationship suffers. I have particularly bad memories of what became known as the Cobra Kai stand-off of 2021. My wife watched season one with me and I thought we were all good. Then season two started and she got bored, arguing it was largely a re-tread of the first season—I was furious and considered going to bed angry. Instead, she left me ‘stranded’ on the couch, while she retired to the bedroom with a book. I tried to give her updates to entice her back: “Johnny is becoming so likeable this season.” It didn’t work.
It’s for this reason that I have a love/hate relationship with streamers that dole out their episodes weekly. On the one hand, it’s great; Monday night is Succession night, for example. But it means I may lose my couch buddy for the rest of the week. On Netflix, where you can generally binge shows, the danger is you get through a series too quickly and are then left with nothing to watch. For me, those gaps between series can become yawning chasms of boredom and loneliness.
The other survey result I latched onto was that 10 per cent of respondents thought it was important to like the same takeaway meals. Again, I can’t overstate how important this is. Getting takeaway is a night-off for both partners, a break from mundane meal prep. If you’re not on the same page then you’re not fully enjoying the respite from your weekly kitchen duties. Again, I’m lucky here. My partner and I are aligned on ‘the big three’ of pizza, Thai or Indian. Of course, we have individual preferences within each option. I generally like spicier dishes, but we meet over staples from each of the big three: butter chicken, capricciosa pizza and chicken cashew nut stir-fry for Thai.
A night in with any of these, followed by a couple of episodes of a prestige drama, a little conversation, possibly some sex (unless it’s the week where we are just doing it once and have already done it that week) and by default, no arguing before bed, is the stuff that I hope will sustain us for decades to come. That and actually getting out of the freakin’ house and living our lives every once in a while.
5 underrated relationship binders
Similar attitudes to alcohol
You’re either both pissheads or both teetotallers. If one of you is a pisshead and the other isn’t, then it means that a lot of the time you’re on different wavelengths.
Enjoy similar holidays
Again, it’s about alignment. If one of you is a lounge-by-the-pool type and the other is an explore-the-island type, you have a problem that can be solved by going your separate ways for the day and meeting up for dinner but kind of defeats the purpose of going on holiday together.
Respect each other’s hobbies
Not everything has to align. In fact, you want to have areas that are ‘your thing’. You like playing Call of Duty online with 12-year-olds in Montenegro, she loves grisly true crime podcasts. No need to bore each other senseless with details of either. And no judgment on either side, just relentless acceptance and support, right? Right!
Once person’s precious (but not actually used that often) belongings are another’s clutter. One person’s clutter is another’s precious belongings. Singular objects possess binary properties. Sufficient storage can prevent a turf war.
Similar attitudes to manners
During the pandemic, when my wife and I were both working from home, we began not to ask each other if the other would like a cup of tea or coffee if we were making one, even though we had previously done so. We were drowning under the weight of performative civility. After making an agreement that it was no longer necessary to ask the other person if they wanted tea or coffee, the relationship soared to new heights.