One of the everlasting questions of humanity is this: what are the key ingredients towards creating and maintaining sustainable and healthy relationships? A recent study collected samples from relationships worldwide to find the answer to this question.
In the study by Robert Epstein and colleagues from the University of the South Pacific (Fiji), they claimed that the most revealing factors in determining the health of a relationship can be found through studying each partner’s skill sets. The stronger your foundational relationship skills are, the likelier you will have a strong and healthy relationship.
There are seven basic skills defined in Epstein’s relationship skill model. These include:
1) Self-Management: Understanding where you excel and where you don’t, and knowing what needs to be done to improve on your weaknesses, and finally working for your goals.
2) Knowledge of Partner: Understanding your partner to the point that you know what makes them tick, smile, and laugh. Not only knowing, but caring about their wants and wishes.
3) Communication: The ability to properly share and listen without judging your partner and making them feel ashamed.
4) Stress Management: Having a mature understanding of what stress is and how to deal with stress, through various coping mechanisms, including relaxation, imagery, organizing, and planning.
5) Life Skills: Having the fundamentals of life mastered, including finances, health and fitness, and career.
6) Sex and Romance: Caring deeply about your partner’s satisfaction in bed and romance, and prioritizing intimacy, and keeping yourself attractive.
7) Conflict Resolution: Knowing how to get past conflicts and having the ability to move forward through forgiveness or apologies.
After going through those points, how many do you think you could honestly say you have mastered enough to maintain a healthy and dynamic relationship? And how do you know which point is the most important—is It Sex and Romance, or is it Conflict Resolution? What is the most important skill to cultivate a healthy relationship?
Testing These Skills as Predictors
In an older study from 2013, clinical professionals rated these seven factors in terms of importance, and the three that received the highest ratings were Sex and Romance, Self-management, and Knowledge of Partner.
But there was still the question of whether or not these skills would translate as being the most important when tested on the field; that is, in actual and real relationships. Did people with these skills have the highest satisfaction in their relationships?
Epstein and his colleagues tested these seven skills, using them to predict the success rate people would have in their relationships, in accordance to the self-ratings of satisfaction that people gave themselves with their partner.
This test was called the ELCI, or the Epstein Love Competencies Inventory. With over 2000 adults tested with the ELCI, they found that there were two predictors that beat out the rest: Knowledge of Partner and Communication. Surprisingly, the clinical professionals were wrong in rating Sex and Romance so highly.
In a study 3 years later, Epstein recreated the same experiment, but this time with 25,000 people from all around the world. While most of the participants were from North America, the respondents included participation from nearly 60 countries. If you’re interested in taking the test that they took, you can find it here.
Again, the study found that the best factors were Knowledge of Partner and Communication; however, there was more variation between age, sex, and relationship skill training. Women rated higher when it came to Sex and Romance, Knowledge of Partner, and Communication, while men rated higher on the other skills.
Young adults were rated higher in both Sex and Romance and Communication, while those 35 years old and above rated high on Self-Management, Life Skills, and Conflict Resolution.
The Most Important Predictor
All of this boiled down to a key question: would the newer study with the larger sample yield the same results as the older study with a smaller sample? Coincidentally enough, there were no differences at all when it came to how strongly a certain relationship skill could predict a person’s relationship satisfaction.
Epstein proved his own results by finding them again with a much larger sample. Communication is one of the strongest predictors when it comes to relationship satisfaction; knowing how to communicate your wants and needs to your partner, but also knowing when to reciprocate.
Listen when they need to be heard out, and respond to their requests in the right manner. You need to know what your partner needs out of life, and you need to help them achieve it. Epstein believes that this skill is also one of the easiest to master—just pay attention and remember the fundamentals about your partner. While not all of us can be experts at resolving conflict or even intimacy, we can all learn to listen to hear out.