Relationship Survival: The Strong Link and the Weak Link

relationship-linkA recent study shows once again that even if opposites do attract, they don’t last, and similar beliefs about relationship commitment is the most important factor in sustaining a relationship.

A group led by six university researchers wanted to understand why some people are more committed in relationships than others and what causes them to be that way. In their search, the cross-university team chose to study participants from a previous 30-year study on growth and development. The study, called the Minnesota Longitudinal Study of Risk and Adaptation (MLSRA) is one of the most comprehensive psychological studies on human development from childhood to adulthood.

Using data in the study they discovered that people could be grouped into two distinct relationship categories based on their childhood experiences. They named these groups strong links and weak links. Whether a person is a strong link or a weak link greatly influences how committed they will be in a relationship. In addition, the groups work best with each other — strong links do well with other strong links, and weak links are better paired with other weak links.

Strong Links

Strong links are the more committed partners in relationships. They tend to invest more in their relationships and consider their relationships an important aspect of their lives.

What makes a person a strong link? Two major factors were found in the childhoods of those who made strong link partners as adults: a supportive, involved mother and an ability to work through conflict. In other words, if a person was cared for and attended to as a child and had to work through conflict with peers, they grew up to make a more committed partner.

Weak Links

Those who are less committed in relationships are called weak links. In relationships, weak links tend to have one foot out the door and are less invested in their relationships.

According to the analysis, a weak link partner usually received less support and care from their mothers in childhood and were less adept at resolving conflict in their teen and pre-teen years. As partners they are less willing to work through relationship issues and less hopeful about the future of their relationships.

Link A +  Link A or Link B + Link B

Unsurprisingly, those relationships with two strong link partners showed the greatest commitment levels. They were also more satisfied with the current state of their relationship and optimistic about its long-term viability. Relationships which involved a strong link and a weak link had more friction and less stability.

But weak link partners also got along better with each other. Relationships between two weak links showed less hostility than weak/strong pairings. Even those such pairings were less stable, partners generally got along better.

It’s long been thought that a person’s childhood background influences their adult relationships, now there is support for that notion. But while the study supports one common idea, it can be seen as contradicting another. Simply put, over the long-term opposites repel and just don’t last.

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6 thoughts on “Relationship Survival: The Strong Link and the Weak Link

  1. So true. It makes sense, after all. I do believe that the opposites attract or even complement to a degree, but not in terms of relationship attachment, but other things.

  2. Mira,

    “I do believe that the opposites attract or even complement to a degree, but not in terms of relationship attachment, but other things.”

    Like what?

    Opposites intrigue, I guess — people are interested in the new and different. But if we’re talking about attract in terms of long-term interest, eh… not so much.

  3. I definitely am a strong link in relationships and I always end up with the weak links lol. I agree that two strong links are ideal. I want someone to put in just as much as I do in the relationship. I also want someone with the same value system that I have but as far as personality traits, I am so bored with someone just like me. Its nice in a friendship but for me personally not in a relationship. Im not excited by it at all. Im shy, he’s shy. No one wants to be the assertive one and make the move first, where is that gonna get us? I complain about life and whine sometimes and if he’s whining right back at me, we are just two complainers waah waah not getting anywhere. Id rather him bring out the positivity in me. Im not saying a guy has to be my exact opposite but different enough to keep me interested.

  4. I don’t know. For example, when you’re strong in one area but weak in the other. Finding someone who’s the opposite could help you both balance. For example, I am a messy person and my husband is neat. He helps me keep the apartment neat and reminds me to take out the garbage and buy groceries (the things I’d forget about until it’s late). On the other hand, I am more disciplined when it comes to studying and writing academic papers. He would leave them all untouched before the deadline. But I constantly nag, I mean, remind him of it, so he does all the university work regularly.

    That sort of things.

  5. I’m a strong link but for the life of me I used to attract so many weak links so I had to do some soul-searching to figure out why I kept attracting these folks and then kept choosing to be with them. But with Matt and I it’s a strong link, we’re both very committed to our relationship and it’s nice. Because the work I put in, he appreciates it and the work he puts in I appreciate it. We don’t have to beg or cajole each other and put up ultimatums about our relationship. We just work in harmony. I used to think opposites attract but after my ex-husband all I think is that opposites make each crazy.

  6. Jessica,

    “I also want someone with the same value system that I have but as far as personality traits, I am so bored with someone just like me. Its nice in a friendship but for me personally not in a relationship. Im not excited by it at all. Im shy, he’s shy. No one wants to be the assertive one and make the move first, where is that gonna get us?”

    Well, you can both be shy — that doesn’t mean you’re shy in the same way. I can shy but I approach guys. And I guess even when people have similar personalities, they’re still not so similar that it gets boring. I mean, you couldn’t possibly date your clone. 🙂

    Mira,

    “For example, when you’re strong in one area but weak in the other. Finding someone who’s the opposite could help you both balance. For example, I am a messy person and my husband is neat.”

    Oh, I see what you mean. I can see how that would help.

    But that doesn’t work out for my parents; my father is neat and mother is messy. So he just gets irritated with all her mess and she gets annoyed when he bothers her about the mess.

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