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13 Jan 2014

Cuddles and cups of tea – major study reveals how couples make their love last

Enduring Love? report finds out how couples make their love last

Enduring Love? report finds out how couples make their love last

Over 5,000 people have revealed how they are keeping their relationships on track, despite what life may throw at them, as part of a major two-year study into modern couples funded by the Economic & Social Research Council. The Enduring Love? study, conducted by social scientists at The Open University, showed that simple acts of kindness are the things that keep people together.

Co-author of the report, Dr Jacqui Gabb said: “Actions really do speak louder than words and many people consider a loving gesture to be as valuable as hearing ‘I love you’. Grand romantic gestures, although appreciated, don’t nurture a relationship as much as bringing your partner a cup of tea in bed, or watching TV together.”

The in-depth survey revealed wide differences in men and women in middle age; with women over 55 scoring lowest on relationship satisfaction and men three times more likely than women to mention sexual intimacy as something which makes them feel appreciated.

Co-author of the report, Dr Janet Fink said: “With a tough economic climate, the rise in grey divorce and social media opening up new ways to start affairs, it isn’t always easy to keep love alive today. However, our survey has shown that surviving adversities – even very difficult situations such as being out of work - can make a relationship much stronger. What doesn’t break you, can make you.”

Other findings from the survey include:
- Parenthood shapes relationship quality more than any other factor
- Mothers are happiest in their life than any other group
- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Queer (LGBQ) couples, especially younger people, remain afraid to hold hands in public for fear of reprisal.
- However, LGBQ couples are generally happier about their relationship quality and are more likely to act spontaneously
- Money issues are one of the most difficult aspects of modern relationships, but stressors such as being out of work do appear to pull couples together
- Couples cherish affection and cuddles as much as sexual intimacy though sex remains an important part of the relationship

Ruth Sutherland, Chief Executive of Relate said: “We welcome this insightful and important research into what makes love last. What this study shows us is that couples need to keep investing in their relationships. It's reassuring to know, especially in these tough economic times, that it's the small gestures of appreciation and affection, rather than the big romantic displays that really make the difference. The report shows the importance of creating a culture where seeking help to strengthen our relationships is seen as the norm."

The study involved two levels of research – an online quantitative survey of more than 5,000 adults and in-depth interviews with a sample of 50 couples. It was designed, developed and implemented in dialogue with policy makers, relationship support organisations, media commentators and academic colleagues.

Notes to editors:
The Enduring Love? Couple Relationships in the 21st Century project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC RES-062-23-3056).

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