How strong is your relationship?

This column originally appeared in The Observer magazine/Guardian online

There is one personality trait that, across many psychological studies, consistently predicts relationship satisfaction. It doesn’t matter whether you’re male or female, or even what your partner is like. And best of all, we can measure it with just a few simple questions. On a scale of 1 (not at all) to 5 (extremely), to what extent do you…


(a) pay attention to details

(b) get chores done straight away

(c) like order

(d) follow a schedule

(e) ensure you are always well-prepared


If you scored 21-25 you are very conscientious; 16-20 somewhat conscientious; 15 or less (or you didn’t finish the test), not particularly conscientious. Yes, that’s right, the personality trait that most reliably predicts relationship satisfaction is conscientiousness. At first, this seems a bit surprising, as this personality profile comes across as rather unromantic, even boring. But it turns out that other traits – such as extraversion (being outgoing) and openness to experience (enjoying new things) –  can be either good or bad depending on your partner, and the stage of your relationship. While it might sound rather boring, it seems that – at the end of the day – most of us want a partner who will keep their promises, do their share of the household chores, remember birthdays and anniversaries, not cheat on us, and forgive us if we cheat on them; all characteristics of conscientious people, and predictors of relationship satisfaction. And as if that’s not enough, conscientious people also live longer, even after controlling for education and socioeconomic status. Let’s raise a (sensible-size) glass for boring people!


A fully referenced version of this article is available at Order Psy-Q by Ben Ambridge (Profile Books, £8.99) for £6.99 at

1 Comment

  1. Re Guardian column 12th June on conscientiousness.

    I always follow this column with interest.

    Might be better if participants also then score their partners .

    This might give real world evidence of results (albeit biased) rather than intentions of the individual which might not translate into action.

    Keep em coming!

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