We all love a good romance.
The story of boy meets girl, they fall in love, and it’s happily ever after.
It’s the subject of a million romance films, books, and fairytales.
But how do you really fall in love in real life? More importantly, how does your personality shape your love life?
These are the things that we will attempt to answer in this article.
Interested? Read on to learn more about the 4 ways your personality shapes your love life!
The Big Five Personality Traits
Several things can affect our romantic prospects. Our past, our traumas and emotional baggage, our type in a romantic partner…
But most importantly, it is our personality that greatly shapes our love lives.
Over the years, there have been several attempts to create models that define the different personalities we have.
Ancient Greeks believed that we must have a balance of the different bodily fluids that affect the way we behave.
Astrologers believe our date of birth and the alignment of the stars and the planets determine our personalities.
Old and archaic psychological models, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, tried to sort human personalities into distinct types (Introversion or Extroversion, Intuition or Sensing, Thinking or Feeling, and Perceiving or Judging).
However, most of these theories have been debunked in the last couple of years. There’s only one that’s been empirically proven to have some type of accuracy: the Big Five Personality traits.
The Big Five personality traits include the following:
- Openness (to new experiences) – determines creativity and curiosity vs caution and consistency
- Conscientiousness – determines efficiency and organization vs impulsivity and recklessness
- Extraversion – determines sociability and assertiveness vs introversion and reservedness
- Agreeableness – determines friendliness and compassion vs hostility and criticism
- Neuroticism – determines anxiety and instability vs confidence and emotional stability
But how can these five traits predict our romantic lives?
The openness trait defines our tendency to be creative and curious as opposed to being cautious and consistent.
Out of all the big five personality traits, openness has the most minor role in predicting romantic lives.
On the other hand, scoring low on neuroticism and high in conscientiousness, agreeableness, and extraversion predicted higher levels of relationship satisfaction.
However, this doesn’t mean that the trait is insignificant in romantic love.
This study shows that in married couples, high openness in women is associated with having sex more often.
Researchers speculate that this might be because men tend to seek out sex more frequently than women, while women tend to “gate-keep” sex in a marriage and therefore determines when and how frequently it will happen.
2) Conscientiousness and agreeableness
Being conscientious and agreeable defines our ability to be organized as opposed to impulsive and to be friendly as opposed to critical.
Scoring high in conscientiousness and agreeableness predicts higher relationship satisfaction, because they signify a tendency to be less prone to impulsivity and have high trust toward our partners.
This study shows that scoring high in these two traits (and having low neuroticism) are associated with higher marital satisfaction.
Meanwhile, low conscientiousness and agreeableness predicted sexual risk-taking and even infidelity.
It was also shown that having low conscientiousness and agreeableness makes you more prone to casual sex with strangers, having unprotected sex, and having a large number of partners.
Holland et. al. also found that low self-control (i.e., low conscientiousness) during arguments can be an indicator of future divorce. They noted that:
“It’s a problem if you need to inhibit yourself greatly while having a conversation with your partner about the kinds of things that you would ordinarily be talking about and trying to resolve in your daily lives.”
Neuroticism defines our tendency to be anxious and unstable as opposed to being emotionally stable and confident.
Among the big five personality traits, neuroticism is the strongest predictor of how your romantic relationships will turn out for you.
Obviously, scoring high in neuroticism is a bad indicator for romantic relationships.
This is perfectly illustrated by a 1987 study that followed 300 married couples over 30 years. It was shown that the neuroticism of one spouse predicted dissatisfaction in marriage and divorce.
To rub salt over the wound, it was also found that high neuroticism also indicates low resiliency after the divorce.
The study also explains how high neuroticism interferes with relationship satisfaction in multiple ways, one of which is neurotic individuals’ high reactivity to stress and being prone to experiencing negative emotions, which is likely to be absorbed by the other partner and create problems over time.
High neuroticism also interferes with healthy sexuality. Neuroticism of one or both people in a relationship negatively affects their sex life by resulting in low levels of sexual satisfaction because neurotic individuals generally perceive sex negatively.
But why do highly neurotic people have a negative perception of sex?
Jamie Goldenberg et. al. explains that this is because sex “makes apparent our animal nature, which reminds us of our vulnerability and mortality.”
Because these are concepts that neurotic individuals find difficult to comprehend, they end up devaluing and even avoiding sex altogether.
Extraversion defines our ability to be outgoing and sociable as opposed to being shy and reserved.
Extroverts are generally believed to be happier, more sociable, more charismatic, and are better sexually adjusted than introverts.
Knowing all of these, does this mean that extraverts are more likely to have happy, functioning romantic relationships?
Well, not really.
This is because the traits of extraverted people can also undermine romantic relationships.
Extraverted people can have high adventurism, which means they are likely to seek short-term sex and have high, unrestricted sociosexuality (the tendency to have non-committal sexual relationships).
High extraversion and low conscientiousness in men also predicted lower marital satisfaction for their wives.
Do opposites attract?
We’ve probably all seen the trope of the opposites attract, where two people of highly contrasting personalities fall in love like the positive and negative sides of two magnets are highly attracted to each other.
However, this isn’t exactly true in real life.
People don’t always seek out partners who have different personality traits from them. It’s actually quite the opposite: this study showed that people are more likely to choose partners who resemble themselves.
This phenomenon is called assortative mating. It’s where people usually choose partners who have the same religious, cultural, or ethnic backgrounds and have the same personal and professional interests.
If you live in a very diverse country such as the US, you might prefer dating people of the same cultural or ethnic background. This is also why people are normally attracted to other people of the same age.
Interestingly enough, our tendency to choose people of the same background can actually have profound effects on society.
Because rich people are more likely to marry other rich people and highly educated professionals are also more likely to end up with other highly educated professionals, this widens the social gaps in our society’s income and socioeconomic status, among many others.
Still, our tendency to choose partners who resemble ourselves results in higher relationship satisfaction, overall, so at least it’s not all bad news.
Will I have a happy ending?
After everything we’ve discussed, you’re probably wondering: will I ever find my happy ending?
As you probably already know, there really is no definite answer, but there are some things that could help us answer that.
First, define what you mean by a “happy ending”. Do you mean finding the perfect partner, having a happily ever after as a small family in the suburbs, or something else?
This is because it’s easy to initially find a suitable partner, but it can be hard to determine if the relationship will last or if it will be a good one.
If you find that you scored high in bad personality indicators for romantic relationships and low in the good ones, don’t fret: that doesn’t mean you’re completely irredeemable and hopeless.
There are still several things you could try in order to rewire your brain to find happy, healthy, and lasting relationships. One of these is therapy.
Therapy can help you unpack years of trauma and emotional baggage, which might have been caused by your family or your past relationships. It can help you unlearn bad behavior that prevents you from getting into relationships that are good for you.
So if you have the means and the resources, know this: it’s never too late to get help.
Our personalities play a huge role in our lives, including our romantic relationships.
While there have been different theories over the years that attempted to define the whole spectrum of human personalities, only one was really empirically proven: the Big Five Personality Traits.
The big five personality traits include openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.
Among all of these, neuroticism is the strongest predictor of how our romantic relationships will turn out.
We also discussed that opposite personalities don’t necessarily attract, as people tend to be attracted to other people who resemble themselves.
Even if you’ve read this far and think you have “bad” personality traits that are also bad indicators for romantic relationships, don’t worry, because it doesn’t have to mean you’ll never find your happy ending.
Among many other things, therapy can help you rewire your brain to find happy, healthy, and lasting romance.
I wish you luck on your romantic journey!