Life

There’s a scientific explanation behind all your bad (and good) relationship habits

Posted by
Hannah-Rose Yee
Published
backgroundLayer 1
Add this article to your list of favourites

Feel like you’re repeating yourself in each new partnership? This study shows that changing your partner doesn’t necessarily change your relationship dynamics. 

There’s a reason why, when writing about relationships, articles often reference Sex and the City.

The show deals expressly with relationships in all of their various forms, and what those relationships mean to its quartet of female characters. And the show gives each of its awesome foursome a number of different partners so as to best illustrate its point: that the greatest love you’ll have in your life is with yourself. And then with your friends.

Think about it – no matter who Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda or Samantha were with at any given moment in the series their core essence did not change. They were, largely, who they were in each relationship, for better or for worse. 

You may also like

These are the main reasons relationships end, according to a new study

For better in the sense that each woman’s clearly defined personality did not shift too much within the confines of her partnerships. 

For worse in the sense that you could often see history repeating itself. Carrie’s neediness played out again and again and again in her relationships with Big, Aidan, Berger and even Petrovsky. Likewise, Charlotte’s hyper-romantic streak with Trey was also there in her relationship with Harry, just softened and sanded down at the edges.

Sarah Jessica Parker with her Sex and the City co-stars.

The writers of Sex and the City were onto something, though. Research from the University of Alberta has shown that no matter who your partner is your relationship dynamic is fairly fixed.

The study, which surveyed 554 people in Germany over the course of eight years, found that many relationship patterns – both good and bad – were repeated over and over again, even after a couple had broken up and were dating new people.

The point? That a breakup isn’t going to give you a different relationship. The only way to do that is to work on yourself.

What can you learn from a break up?

“Although some relationship dynamics may change, you are still the same person so you likely recreate many of the same patterns with the next partner,” Matthew Johnson, lead author on the study said. “New love is great, but relationships continue past that point.”

Often the ‘honeymoon’ phase at the start of a new relationship convinced participants that they were entering into something completely new, a belief coloured by a bad breakup or the excitement of a new partner. “There’s a lot of change in between, but more broadly we do have stability in how we are in relationships,” said Johnson.

There are two ways of looking at this: that we’re all doomed to repeat our same relationship mistakes over and over again, in perpetuity, as empires rise and fall and rise again.

New relationship, same pattern?

Or we can look on the bright side – no matter who we are in a relationship with we retain our true selves. A partner will never change us. The most important relationship that we will ever have is with ourselves.

“Who you are matters,” explains Johnson. “And addressing personal issues is going to be very impactful on whether you’ll be successful in your relationship or not.” 

Sign up for the latest news and must-read features from Stylist, so you don't miss out on the conversation.

By entering my email I agree to Stylist’s Privacy Policy

What was it that Samantha said to Smith? (And Richard, for that matter? Proving this article’s point entirely.) “I love you, but I love me more.”   

Sign up for workouts, nutritious recipes and expert tips. You'll also get your Beginner's Guide To Strength Training.

By entering my email I agree to Stylist’s Privacy Policy

Please be aware that this article was originally published on 28 August 2019, but has been updated throughout to include new information.

Images: Getty / Unsplash

Topics

Share this article

Author

Hannah-Rose Yee

Hannah-Rose Yee is a writer based in London. You can find her on the internet talking about movies, television and Chris Pine.

Recommended by Hannah-Rose Yee

Life

Having a crush on someone else makes your relationship stronger

A wandering eye can enhance your sex life, study finds

Posted by
Stylist Team
Published
Life

These are the main reasons relationships end, according to a new study

...and the reasons couples stay together

Posted by
Megan Murray
Published
Life

On-off relationships can be “toxic” for mental health, says study

Breaking up and getting back together again is linked to psychological distress.

Posted by
Anna Brech
Published
Life

This is a major reason why people stay in unhappy relationships

Apparently, altruism comes into play when deciding whether or not to break up.

Posted by
Moya Crockett
Published
People

Couples who sleep naked together have a happier relationship, study reveals

Couples who sleep naked together have a happier relationship, study reveals

Posted by
Anna Brech
Published