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Most Americans believe in soulmates. But is it better if you don’t?

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New Jersey 101.5 video

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, a new survey takes a look at what Americans think about relationships.

A Monmouth University Poll finds that the power of Cupid’s Arrow is alive and well, with over 66 percent of American adults believing in the concept of soulmates. Of those currently in a relationship, an overwhelming majority of women, 82 percent, believe in the concept, with 64 percent of men feeling the same way.

“We’re fairly romantic in our views of relationships, and so this idea of there only being one person out there for me is really one of those highly romanticize notions about relationships,” said Gary Lewandowski, professor and chair of psychology at Monmouth University, whose research focuses on romantic relationship

As for those not in a relationship, the percentage that believe in soulmates takes a bit of a hit, with only 53 percent of women indicating they believe in the idea of soulmates and 47 percent of men.

And if you’re one of those who do believe in soulmates, it might not be such a good thing for your relationship. Lewandowski said when it comes to relationships, there’s basically two types of beliefs you can have — one is the idea of soulmates and destiny and the other is the growth belief. In the growth relationship, people work through their challenges together, thereby growing together as a couple. For those who want their relationship to go the distance, Lewandowski said growth is better.

“The research shows the folks with the growth perspective actually do better. Their relationships are more stable over time and they’re better dealing with conflict.”

When it comes to partnering up, 6 in 10 Americans want someone who is like them, with similar interests and likes.

“People are smart to want this,” said Lewandowski. “You’re much better off having a similar partner who shares your personality traits, some demographic characteristics and a lot of your interests. It really helps minimize the amount of conflict in a relationship.”

For some Americans, however, opposites still attract. According to the survey, 29 percent said that somewhat different partners are an ideal match, while 3 percent said partners should be very different.

“A lot of the sort of common wisdom on this is that opposites attract. But in reality, what we find in relationship science is that opposites may attract for a little while and then they happen to attack,” said Lewandowski.

When it comes to decision making, 78 percent of Americans polled said they are  interested in partnering up with someone who makes decisions with their head. Only 15 percent said they wanted someone who made decisions with their gut.

And having a like-minded partner isn’t the only key to a successful relationship for most people. The poll also reveals that friendship is important too. Of those currently in a relationship, 83 percent identified their current partner as their best friend.

Lewandowski said those in relationships today, especially younger couples, are expecting more from their partners.

“We’re expecting our partner to help us grow as people. To be a real, true companion and a best friend,” Lewandowski said.

Interestingly, Lewandowski said the “best friend question” isn’t asked much in research about romantic relationships. In fact, that last time he found it had been asked was in research in 1993. At that point, only 44 percent of people indicated that their partner was their best friend.

And while the Rolling Stones had a big hit with “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction,” of the 70 percent of Americans currently in a relationship, most report being satisfied.

How satisfied you are doesn’t depend on gender, with women and men both reporting almost equal levels of satisfaction, but age may play a role in satisfaction levels:

  • Adults under the age of 35: 64 percent report being extremely satisfied
  • Adults between age 35 and 54: 60 percent report being extremely satisfied
  • Adults age 55 and older: 48 percent report being extremely satisfied

In a similar poll taken two years ago, satisfaction rates among adults age 55 and older were 9 percent higher. Lewandowski said the decrease can mostly be attributed to shifts among men.

The poll was conducted by telephone from Jan. 12-15 with 801 U.S. adults.

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