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A Survey Of American Relationships And Love

A giant new survey lays out what’s really going on in American relationships, American love — and the world’s.

We connect, we couple up, we look to commit, and then we wonder – how are we doing?  Will this relationship last?  Is it all it can or should be?  And how do other people, other couples, get along.

Do they smooch like us?  Talk like us?  Thrill and tussle and fight like us?  Could we learn from other ways?  Do it differently?  A big new survey of couples and how they relate is loaded with points of comparison, from the kitchen to the bedroom.

You may not go for the norm, or their niche, but it’s interesting to know what’s out there.

This hour, On Point:  everything you wanted to know, etc…

-Tom Ashbrook


Chrisanna Northrup, co-author of “The Normal Bar: The Surprising Secrets of Happy Couples and What They Reveal About Creating a New Normal in Your Relationship.” With the help of AOL, The Huffington Post, AARP and iVillage, she was able to get 70,000 responses to a survey about relationships. (@chrisnorthrup)

Pepper Schwartz, professor of sociology at the University of Washington. Co-author of “The Normal Bar.” (@pepperschwartz)

From Tom’s Reading List

The Washington Post “What if it’s as bad as you think? What if behind the picket fence and brocade curtains, your neighbors really are holding hands by the fire? They’re calling each other “sweetheart” and talking about their feelings before heading to the bedroom for another round of magic-making. What if that’s what everyone’s doing? Everyone except you.”

USA Today “Among their findings, based on responses from individuals 18 and older who are in relationships (both heterosexual and same-sex):

– 40% say they have sex three to four times a week.
– 48% of men and 28% of women report having fallen in love at first sight.
– 43% of men and 33% of women say they are keeping a major secret from their partner.”

LiveScience “Sorry, guys: Mopping the kitchen may not help you get lucky in the bedroom. Men who do more household chores typically viewed as feminine — like cleaning, cooking and washing — have less sex than men who don’t, according to a new study.”

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  • Preethi Krishnan

    Please do read the critique of the study that claims “less sex for men doing more household chores” :)

  • Nicholas Geron

    That is definitely true of me and my two guy roommates   The one who never cleans or does dishes has sex all the time.  The guy who kinda helps out occasionally with a huge clean of the apartment has sex occasionally as well.  Last but not least, I do the dishes, take out the trash and keep everything tidy but never bring anyone home at night.  However, I never thought it was because I was cleaning… lol  

  • Wm_James_from_Missouri

    Hey, as a man, I am all for doing less housework but I doubt the correctness of the correlation about housework and sex. Plenty of men have wives that have careers and make more than them. These men have surrendered to economic forces and accepted their fate. If that means letting her call the shots in the bedroom; oh well ! It’s either that or she calls the lawyer ! [ Me cave-man not cave-in man ! ]

  • Ed75

    One interesting thing is that couples that us natural family planning not only have a tiny rate of divorce (2% or so, instead of 50%), but they also have sex more often.

    • idler

      another interesting statistic is that unsupported statistical claims are bogus 83% of the time

      • Shag_Wevera

        I read somewhere it was 87%.

        • sickofthechit

           Average is 85%!

    • Mike_Card

      So this must be the world-ending apocalypse you’ve kept insisting is only 6 months away–right? Right??  No problem–I don’t really expect an answer from a superstitious shit-head.

  • Fiscally_Responsible

    What’s going on is that our relationships increasingly lack a life long commitment (divorce, living together until it no longer works out with an increasing number of children born out of wedlock).  Also, society is increasing buying into the perversion of GLBT relationships and marriage.  “Slouching toward Gomorrah”, as Robert Bork titled one of his books.  Sodom and Gomorrah being a place that God destroyed with fire and brimstone because He could tolerate their detestable perversion no longer.

    • J__o__h__n

      Thanks again to Senator Kennedy for keeping Bork off the Supreme Court.  Homosexuality isn’t a perversion.  There is no god. 

      • http://www.facebook.com/kraig.richard Kraig Richard

         ….. but to bad they didn’t have the tenacity for preventing Roberts

    • http://www.facebook.com/leonard.bast.90 Leonard Bast

      God is a figment of your imagination, and the rest of us do not have to sacrifice our civil rights on the alter of your imagination.

  • Fredlinskip


    “Put another log on the fire, put another log on the fire…

    Then mop the floor, do the laundry, fix the truck, take out the trash, clean the windows, mow the lawn, cook some food, do the dishes…

    then sit down and tell me why you’re leaving me.”
     (goes something like that).

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Y6CO5C2HE4WM2OYGCDVWGPRXXM oldman

      How funny – I just watched the Muppet Show episode that did this yesterday with my son :-)

  • Gregg Smith

    I do the dishes, she does the laundry. 

  • Lesann

    Take the Popes resignation at face value? Are you kidding me?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Y6CO5C2HE4WM2OYGCDVWGPRXXM oldman

    In our instant gratification society so many expect stellar relationships without any work or compromise – right now.

    Needless to say most of these folks are either miserable, or alone, or both.

    • sam

      Being alone and feeling miserable and lonely are two different things. Choosing to be alone, rather than in bad relationship, is a good thing.

      Until you can walk away from a bad relationship; be ok on your own; make yourself happy, without relying on someone else to make you happy – I believe, you would never be able to be in a healthy relationship.

  • J__o__h__n

    Unless it is a large random sample, it isn’t representative. 

  • AC

    i’ve been with my husband since i was 16. people think we’re weird or automatically ask if i have kids, cuz you know, why else would we get married?
    he’s ok. i wish he’d learn to take his shoes off in the house, but i’ve given up that nag…

  • sam

    Just watched “Ruby Sparks” last night.
    What a good and interesting example of relationships.
    Co-dependent, controlling, unhealthy.
    Yet, romantic and “true” love.

  • Magyar641

    We are compatible in every way I can think of and have been together for 13 years. The only thing is we are not compatible sexually. How common is a sexless marriage?  We smooth and kiss and touch each other,etc. Never even had a fight. 

    • ToyYoda

      How rare is it to have *just* one thing wrong with your relationship?  Exceptionally rare.  Don’t get bothered that the ONE thing so happens to be sex. 

      What happens if a core of your relationship is based on sex and when you physically can’t have it anymore?  You’d be in an unhappy state.  Seems like you (two) have transcended a relationship based on the material.  If that’s the case, this isn’t a curse but rather a gift from the Gods.

      • Magyar641

        I actually agree. We feel we truly have met each other’s soul mate and have much more fulfillment than other couples we witness. Thank you!

    • Sy2502

      Isn’t that more the definition of a friendship?

  • sam

    What do your guests think of “doing 5 good things for every 1 bad thing in a relationship”?

  • DrewInGeorgia

    Some I know worry about my total loss of interest in relationships and Love. Their definition of Love is having a Significant Other, mine is decidedly not. Caring for each other makes a relationship work and the Honey, Sweetie, Sugar Pie stuff follows along. Of course people have more frequent and enjoyable sex when they are getting along, did we need a survey to tell us that?

    To those neither in nor desiring to be in a relationship, I’m with you.
    I am always alone, I am never lonely.

  • AC

    uh oh – i’m super bossy!!

  • sickofthechit

    So, to be extremely happy only requires that we lie?  Perhaps some of those who claimed to be extremely happy were lying???? charles a. bowsher

  • sastorm

    I heard recently that some couples will “play” together. They engage in an activity that is completely outside the norm and simply shows their comfort and affection for each other. An example is one couple played “hide and seek” in their home.

  • sam

    How much personal space do those “extremely happy” couples have/require?
    Do they spend all their free time together, or some of their free time alone/apart?

  • J__o__h__n

    Holding hands during an argument?  This is more Oprah than science. 

    • sam

       Uhm, what is science?
      In relationship to the “science of love”?! :)

      Oprah might as well be it’s chief scientist. :)

    • DrewInGeorgia

      Unless you’re holding hands to prevent your partner from smacking you.

  • Jeff Laurie

    I had a girlfriend who used to say that women have to feel close to have sex, while men want to have sex in order to feel close.  Comment?

  • sam

    How many of those “extremely happy” couples, would still be happy if they weren’t in a relationship?

    How many of those people reporting to be “happy in a relationship” are intristically “happy” people?

  • DrewInGeorgia

    Any correlation between the “Happy” couples and their monetary situation?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/QMDZ3LH5U2B4GAT7J2HS4TCP6E Jim

    To good and gullible men,
    before you get married in Vegas or other abnormal states… get a pre-nuptial. you will thank me. 

    Love only goes so far in this technological and practical society.

  • Maggie976

    So funny that someone else named Maggie posted about being compatible in every way with her 13-year partner except sexually! My husband, if he’s listening, will think that was me. I think if we communicated more about things beyond the basics we might be more intimate in other ways too. I’m inspired to work on some of this, but not sure he will agree.

  • bostix1

    So, women in straight relationships,the biggest thing your men want is that you want them to give you pleasure. If sex is not your biggest thing after decades of marriage, you don’t need to provide it as much as offering a tender way to receive pleasure fron your partner.

  • NotFunnyMitt

    “Men fantasize about other women because of a lack of intimacy in their relationship” (or similar comment).  Totally false – and could only be said by a woman.  I have been head over heels in love, in a long term relationship, in a short fling, married (am now), and all sorts of different types of relationships over 30+ years.  I have never stopped fantasizing about other women.  That didn’t mean acting on it, or intending it.  It meant fantasizing.  I may not be representative of most men, but I expect that I am.  
    The message – either understand it or get over it – it isn’t a threat or a promise, it is a pre-installed feature of your boyfriend.  Understanding this could remove a big barrier to happiness for both of you.  He MAY one day be unfaithful, but that is a totally different, and unrelated action.

  • bostix1

    You can have a loving marriage without frequent sex as long as you both keep in mind what Woody Allen said.  (If you missed it “Don’t knock masturbation; it’s sex with  someone I love.

    This is also good advice for men who don’t feel they’re getting enough sex to satisfy them.  

    I need to read the book, but I suspect that even in the best relationships a lot of the needed sex is enhanced by images of imaginary partners who may be friends, acquaintances, or just dream people.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1591383114 Jessica McHale

    I love this topic and this show. Tom you always have the best topics! 

  • Laura Burgett

    What about bathroom use?  We are open-door bathroom users, and my previous marriage was an open-potty relationship as well.  Did the surveyors ask about bathroom habits? 

    • sickofthechit

       I understand open-door, but I do not understand open-potty.  Is it something to do with the lid or the seat?

  • Mike_Card

    Is Pepper Schwartz the only “expert” available on this topic?  Isn’t that reason enough to consider the topic too narrow for public broadcast??  Or is she truly to only one with a new book to promote?

  • RollerOfBigCigars

    Worst, there is no worst . . .

  • sue trester

    What about long distance relationships.were they included in the study. More and more people are seperated due to their careers.

  • Phillip Ryan

    I do not know what women want. But I do know what they do not want and that is me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=784973267 Sumie Sato

    I am Japanese and just returned to Japan after having lived in the
    United States 10 plus years. My biggest finding that I believe our
    relationship was lighting. Fluorescent light is very common in Japan and it does not help when trying to be intimate with each other! Really.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=784973267 Sumie Sato

    I am Japanese and just returned to Japan after having lived in the
    United States 10 plus years. My biggest finding that I believe affected our relationship was lighting. Fluorescent light is very common in Japan and it does not help when trying to be intimate with each other! Really.

  • Regular_Listener

    I enjoyed this discussion and the 2 guests seemed like very likeable and talented people, so I don’t want to be a downer here – but this is NOT a scientific survey.  If you have a self-selected group of respondents you can get some interesting anecdotes and perhaps a glimpse at some trends, but the statistics are not reliable.  So when I hear that more men than women feel that their relationships need more romance, or the statistics on lying, however that is defined, I scratch my head and say… huh…

  • ohsnaponu

    I don’t know what men want but I know they don’t want me.

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