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How to have a better relationship, according to research

Whether you're single, in a relationship, or in the limbo of 'it's complicated', looking at data can do a lot of good when it comes to understanding how our relationships work.

Beyond that, data can reveal what works for others, and maybe even help us realize what might work for ourselves and our relationships.

British insurer Pru Life UK launched the second edition of their relationship study recently and much like last year, The Philippines ranked second in terms of personal relationship satisfaction. The 2017 study found that 79 percent of Filipinos felt their relationships fulfilled their needs and expectations.

The Pru Life UK Relationship Index explored the state of personal relationships in nine countries — Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, and Cambodia, which had the highest PRI score.

Of the nine countries that were included in the study, the Philippines is the most optimistic about their relationships, with 72 percent believing their love life will improve in the next five years.

So what makes a satisfying relationship? As it turns out, it boils down to some pretty simple, yet often neglected things.

Illustration: Jannielyn Ann Bigtas
Illustration: Jannielyn Ann Bigtas


1. Talk to each other

The ability to keep a secret may be a virtue, but perhaps not so much when it comes to relationships. The key word is transparency, though experts warn this doesn't mean telling everything to each other; rather, it's saying the important things. 

Present at the event was relationship expert Dr. Margarita Holmes who said it also depends on the relationship — not everybody prefers to know every little detail.

Similarly, RJ Ledesma said that it's important to understand where your partner is coming from. "It really helps with the relationship to understand that one talks logically and one talks emotionally. Part of communication is understanding how we communicate," he said.

According to the PRI, couples who are more transparent with each other tend to fare better than those who withhold information from each other. Those who tell their partner everything have a relationship score of 80/100. Those who don't, score 68/100.

"Self-disclosure is a dance. You say something about yourself to show you are interested... if you both honor the confidences, you can go deeper. The more you share, the deeper the relationship," said Holmes.

One thing you can do to improve your communication is to put your phone away. About 45 percent of men and 42 percent of women believe time spent on the phone negatively impacts their family relationships. Also: 90 percent of Filipinos agree mealtimes would improve if everyone turned off their phones.

2. Make financial plans together

Talking about money can get awkward, especially if you're used to being independent. But PRI data shows that couples who plan their finances together, or even those who are at least transparent with each other about their finances, have higher relationship scores. Those who plan together are more optimistic about their personal finances' improvement in the next five years compared to those who plan separately.

Of course, some couples are more traditional, with the husband as the main breadwinner, but there are as many ways as there are couples.

Ledesma said the kind of plan will depend on the couple. For him and his wife, their financial responsibilities are aligned with their strengths. 

Holmes added that while it's good to plan together, it's also good to still have personal savings. "You have to be ready if your partner goes before you," she advised.

One of the PRI findings was that majority (87%) expect to rely on their personal savings in their old age, and only 32% expect their children to provide them with financial support. 

But there is no one formula that works for everybody. Whatever the situation, the data shows that the important thing is to talk to each other about it. The experts agree. "The most important view is, talking really helps," said Holmes.

3. Be responsible

Many Filipinos in the study said they want their partners to be more responsible. Seventy-one percent of Pinays and only 37 percent of men interviewed said they do most of the housework.

On this point, Holmes pointed out that gender concepts are constructs. "Contrary to what we believe, there is no such thing as a male brain or a female brain," she said, adding that it's important to show children such stereotypes are not true. "I am espousing the belief that men are not made to earn more money and tell women what to do, and women are not made to follow," she said.

Yet another aspect of being responsible involves health. Across all countries, respondents said they wanted to be healthy, but fell short when it came to taking concrete steps.

Meanwhile, 49 percent of Filipinos said they wanted their partner to be more healthy, and 32 percent of women said they wanted their partner to quit smoking or drinking. Despite the majority (63 percent) expressing concern over their health when they get old, an even greater percentage (74 percent) do not consider themselves very active. In fact, 14 percent believe that their health would worsen in the next five years.

The findings also include laughter as a driving factor for satisfaction in a relationship, as those who laugh with their partners at least once a week scored higher than those who laugh less often.

Asked to make predictions about the state of relationships in 2050, the PRI findings show 80 percent of Filipinos believe that separation will be socially acceptable by then; 72 percent predict that over half of the couples living together will not be married. 74 percent believe over half the children will be born to unmarried parents. At the same time, 70 percent believe that children will have a better future than they do now. Finally, 65 percent believe that same sex marriage will be legal in the Philippines.

On the study

The PRI was first conducted in 2016 together with research agency Ipsos. "More than just selling products, what we'd like to be able to understand is relationships and help the communities where we are understand their relationships,"  PRU Like UK Chief Marketing Officer Allan Tumbaga told GMA News Online. Tumbaga said that of all the study's findings, what struck him was how important communication truly is. "Keep the communication flowing. The more you talk with your partner, your parents, your kids, the better your relationship," he said. — LA, GMA News

If you’re wondering what kind of relationship you are in, whether it's with a partner, family, or friends, you can take their online quiz