The mental and physical health benefits of being in a stable relationship are clear: decreased levels of stress and anxiety, higher self-esteem, a greater sense of purpose, and even a longer life. But sustaining a healthy, long-term relationship can be as arduous as it is rewarding. In 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were over 630,000 divorces in America (not including California, Hawaii, Indiana, Minnesota, and New Mexico).
That certainly seems like a lot of people. But not when we compare that number to the more than 800,000 divorces in 2015 or the almost 900,000 in 2010. Only looking back do we start to see a fairly obvious trend. Simply put: Americans (at least those who are legally married) have become more committed than ever to their current partners.
Since the emergence of COVID-19, however, the momentum seems to have shifted back in the other direction. According to a survey conducted by Dating.com, nearly twice as many couples broke up between January and September of 2020 than during the same time period of the previous year. And Stewarts, the leading law firm in the U.K., reported a 122% increase in divorce enquiries between July and October of 2020, compared to the same period in 2019.
So how are our relationships looking near the end of 2022? As the pandemic dwindles, are more couples toughing it out or calling it quits? Have our priorities changed? What sacrifices are we willing (or not willing) to make to stay in our current relationships? We surveyed 1,001 people currently in a romantic relationship to find out.
Our survey revealed a number of interesting and unexpected insights, including:
Our relational needs, wants, and priorities vary widely, from couple to couple, as well as from person to person within a given pair. This means that when we enter a new relationship, laying out all of our non-negotiables upfront is a good idea. Maybe your partner absolutely can’t see themselves living on the East Coast. Maybe you absolutely cannot be with someone who drinks alcohol. In what areas of life are you willing to budge? Where will you never give an inch? These are important questions to ask (and answer) at the start of a new relationship, as well as revisit during a long-term one.
Of the 1,001 men and women we surveyed, we found that certain things were significantly easier to (hypothetically) give up for romantic love than others. Not all were as obvious or inherently logical as one might think. We also discovered notable preferential differences between genders and generations (millennials, Gen X, Gen Z, and baby boomers).
Let’s take a look at the results!
Overall, women and men of all ages (81.9%) wouldn’t mind giving up coffee for one year in order to stay with their current partner. People of all ages (84.2%) wouldn't be too concerned about giving up social media for one year if it meant staying with their current partner, either. Of all participants surveyed, most (71.6%) would also be willing to give up sex for one year, if that would (somehow) make their partner happier. A significant number of our respondents, though, (27.6%) would rather move on than attempt a year of celibacy.
Of the people we surveyed, the majority (70.2%) said they wouldn’t trade their current relationship for a chance at their dream job. Nor would most of them (91.4%) let their partner walk away before handing over their cell phone password. Fewer of our respondents, however, (88.5%) were as eager to hand over their social media passwords.
Giving up your cell phone altogether was another story. Well over half of our respondents (67.8%) said they’d rather give up sex with their partner for one month than give up their phone for one week.
Maintaining harmony in your relationship, we also found, was only slightly more important to most people than keeping the peace at work: 46.5% of participants surveyed said they’d rather have a fight with their boss than with their partner, 46.2% stated the reverse. (The remaining 7.4% are unemployed.)
So far, it appears that most people place a relatively high value on their current relationship. Let’s break the results down even further and see what shakes out.
When we asked survey participants if they had to give up a specific social media platform for one year in order to stay with their partner, a significant minority (14.2%) claimed they would choose to give up Twitter; respondents were much more inclined to give up TikTok (25%). Facebook (28.6%), or Instagram (29.7%).
Although interesting, the preference of a specific platform over another is less notable than the fact that most people (84.2%) would be willing to give up social media for one year in order to salvage their relationship.
Social media has been known to negatively impact relationships. There are a number of signs to be on the lookout for:
We asked participants: If you had to give up a certain sexual activity for one year in order to keep your partner, which one would it be? The majority (32.4%) stated they would give up foreplay. Coming in a close second, with 31.3% of the total, was oral sex. A much smaller percentage of people (18.2%) stated they would prefer, over the alternatives, to forgo sex. And the sexual activity our participants reported they’d be least willing to give up — just 15.2% — was kissing. (The remaining 3% stated they and their partner did not have a sexual relationship.)
Based on what we found, perhaps intimacy, as a whole, plays a bigger role in relationships than we thought. The four types of intimacy most commonly found in romantic relationships are physical, emotional, mental (or intellectual), and spiritual. And all contribute equally to the function of a healthy relationship. What we’re interested in here, though, is physical intimacy: hugging, cuddling, kissing, and typically sexual intercourse.
According to our respondents, sex (intercourse) and kissing were the two most important aspects of physical intimacy in their relationship. Our study also revealed that the importance of certain sexual activities tends to vary between men and women.
Compared to women, men are more inclined to give up foreplay (39.8% vs. 24.7%). Women, however, were more likely to pass on oral sex (38.1% vs. 25.0%). But when it comes to sex, the gender gap begins to narrow: 20% of women and 16.4% of men said they’d prefer to go without sex for one year, as opposed the alternatives, to stay in their current relationship. Both women (14.4%) and men (15.4%) were also less willing to give up kissing than any other sexual activity.
When asked if you had to give up a work-related perk or benefit for a year to stay with your current partner, only a small minority (6.2%) claimed they’d be willing to forgo a raise. The vast majority of participants, when presented with the same choice, were much less interested in a one-time bonus (35.2%), the option to work from home (27.3%), or receiving a promotion (25.1%). Bonuses are nice, and working remotely does have its charms, but the promise of cumulative earnings over time appears to be the work-related benefit we’re least likely to give up for the sake of our partner.
Whether it’s coffee, sex, or social media, our study revealed a wide range of preferences between the generations. We looked at the differences between the following generations:
When it comes to giving up coffee, Gen Z is the generation most willing (87.8%) to forgo their caffeine fix for a year in order to stay with their current partner. But when asked how long they’d realistically be able to give it up, Gen Z gave an average answer of just 5.16 months. Baby boomers, even if they weren’t the most willing (82.4%), claimed they’d be able to do without coffee for an average of 10.23 months.
Millennials were only slightly more willing (82.6%) to give up coffee than the baby boomers. But the Gen X cohort was the least willing (77.1%) to pass on their daily Starbucks in order to stay together with their partner.
The oldest generation, the baby boomers, reported they were the most willing (87.8%) to give up social media for one year to stay with their partner. The majority of baby boomers use social media about as much as everyone else — mostly to stay connected with friends and family — but only about 40% of them view social media as an important part of their daily lives.
Coming in just behind the baby boomers, the majority of our Gen Z respondents (86.3%) claimed they’d have no problem giving up social media for one year if it meant saving their relationship. However, the realistic length of time they’d be willing to go without social media, as per their responses, was an average of just 5.58 months.
Gen Z has had access to social media for more than half their lives, and 65% of them believe social media to be an essential element of their lives. What sets Gen Z apart from the other generations, though, is their stated reason: to kill time. According to a study sponsored by Sprout Social (a social media solutions company), this makes them the only generation to rank “to kill time” above maintaining a connection to friends and family.
One thing all the generations did agree on was that they would, by an overwhelming majority, rather give their social media passwords and/or cell phone passcode to their partner than break up with them. In comparison to the other three generations, Gen Z was the one least willing to do so.
In our study, Gen X turned out to be the generation least willing (66.5%) to give up sex for one year to stay with their current partner. They were also the generation who claimed to be willing to go the longest without sex (9.37 months) — just slightly longer than the baby boomers (9.27 months), who also happened to be the most willing (79.7%) to give it up (or rather, not give it up) for one year.
Our Gen Z and millennial participant groups landed somewhere in the middle (74.8% and 72.1%, respectively). However, even though they claimed to be more willing than millennials and Gen X, the average time Gen Z reported being able to give up sex for a year was only 4.85 months.
As they did with sex, coffee, and social media, the majority of all generations said they’d be willing to give up their dream job in order to stay in their current relationship. Surprisingly, though, it was members of the youngest and oldest generations — Gen Z (80.2%) and baby boomers (74.3%) — who placed the highest value on meaningful work. It was the more ambitious middle generations — Gen X (67.3%) and millennials (68.6%) — that turned out to be significantly less willing to abandon their entrepreneurial dreams.
When it came to fighting with their partner or fighting with their boss, half of our 507 male respondents (49.9%) reported they’d rather have a verbal confrontation with their boss. 45.8% said they’d rather fight with their partner, and 4.3% said they were unemployed. Of our 485 female respondents, 43.3% said they’d rather have a fight with their boss, 47.0% claimed they’d rather fight with their partner, and 9.7% said they were unemployed.
According to a study on gender-based workplace preferences, men and women both tend to value the same aspects of their jobs. But they do so, the study suggests, to different degrees. Men typically place a higher value on pay, benefits, authority, status, and power; women tend to place more value on workplace relationships, respect, communication, fairness, equity, collaboration, and work-life balance.
This could explain, in part, why the majority of women in our study said they would rather have a confrontation with their boss than with their partner. According to the study, maintaining a respectful, fair, and communicative working environment is more important to women than it is to men. This could explain why more men in our study reported they’d be more willing to fight with their boss than with their partner.
The majority of men (71.6%) and women (64.1%) reported they would rather give up their phone for one week than give up sex with their partner for one month. These findings, however, weren’t all that surprising. Our study found that 20% of women and 16.4% of men would give up sexual intercourse for one year to maintain their current partner. Therefore, one could argue, men tend to value sex in their relationships slightly more than women, and would be slightly less willing to give it up in order to keep their phones.
Most women (64.7%) said they would rather give up TV (which includes television and movie streaming services like Netflix and Hulu) for one year as opposed to being cheated on by their partner. However, a significant number (35.3% of the 485 women we surveyed) would rather be cheated on. The men felt about the same: 65.5% of the 507 men surveyed said they’d rather their partner cheat on them than miss a season of their favorite series.
We surveyed 1,001 men and women currently in romantic relationships to see what they would be willing (or unwilling) to give up to stay with their current partners. We wanted to know how important luxuries like coffee, TV, and social media are to people. We also wanted to determine the relative value men and women in relationships place on the more important aspects of life, such as sex and meaningful work. Would we find preferential differences in the sexes? Would we uncover generational differences and similarities? We asked a range of highly specific questions to find out.
Innerbody Research is committed to providing objective, science-based suggestions, and research to help our readers make more informed decisions regarding health and wellness. We invested the time and effort into creating this light-hearted study is to see what lengths people are willing to go to for the people they love. We hope to reach as many people as possible by making this information widely available. As such, please feel free to share our content for educational, editorial, or discussion purposes. We only ask that you link back to this page and credit the author as Innerbody.com.
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