While there are no set rules when it comes to relationships, there are a few stages that will likely repeat each time you fall in love. After the first date, there will probably be a short period of time when all you can wonder about is if they like you as much as you like them. Once it’s official, you’ll move into that honeymoon phase when everything is new and you two are totally smitten with each other (FYI, you and your partner probably sort of suck to be around during this time, just saying). But once you move through that, you may fall into a rut or at least a lull. There are some who manage to go the distance, but other relationships tend to dissolve during this period. If you’ve ever wondered just how long you need to be together before your relationship becomes totally solid, a study by Stanford sociologist Michael Rosenfeld might just have the answer.
Rosenfeld has been working to uncover the answer to that exact question. Throughout his ongoing study (which he started way back in 2009), he has surveyed more than 3,000 people involved in four different types of relationships: straight and married, straight and unmarried, same-sex in a marriage-like relationship and same-sex and unmarried.
While separation rates varied for each group, if you’re in an unmarried heterosexual or homosexual relationship, five years appears to be the sweet spot when breakup rates take a drastic drop. Throughout the first five years, these two kinds of relationships follow a similar pattern. Both start with a 70% chance of breaking up and drop about 10% every year. Make it to 23 years in an unmarried straight relationship, and your breakup risk comes in at an all-time low of 11%.
What’s interesting is that risk rate actually goes UP the longer you’re together after that. After 40 years together unmarried heterosexual couples face a 15% breakup rate. That could be because unmarried couples don’t face the prospect of an expensive divorce and could potentially both just go their separate ways.
But now let’s chat about those who decide to go the married route. For straight married couples, separation rates are significantly lower than all other groups. At the five-year mark, their breakup rate is at about 4%. It remains pretty steady around there as the years go on with the risk steadily declining to 1% after 40 years together. For same-sex couples in a marriage-like relationship, the risk of breaking up is slightly higher. It falls at about 8% around the six-year mark and then drastically declines. Once together for 15 years, same-sex married couples and heterosexual married couples are nearly identical in their breakup chances.
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