Skip to content

Relationships survey: honesty and commitment valued most

An annual study of more than 6,000 people has lifted the lid on relationships in the UK ...

An annual study of more than 6,000 people has lifted the lid on relationships in the UK, suggesting that we’re a nation of romantics who value honesty and commitment over sex and physical attraction.*  

Published by charities Relate, Relationships Scotland and Marriage Care, The Way We Are Now 2015 is one of the largest studies of its kind. It provides a window into some of the most important and personal areas of our lives – from couple relationships and family life to sex, friendships, and how we feel about our colleagues and bosses.
When respondents to the study were asked to pick which three factors are most important for showing commitment in a relationship*, ‘sharing problems’ came out top across all age groups, with 50% of people ranking it in their top three.

The second answer most frequently put in people’s top three was ‘being in an exclusive relationship’ (44%), followed by ‘getting married’ (39%).**  

Mind the generation gap

While getting married was found to be an important sign of commitment across all age groups, there were signs of a potential generational shift in attitudes. For example, 35% of those aged 65 or over thought that getting married was the most important factor in showing commitment in a relationship, falling to just 12% for 16-24 year olds.**

The study also found that when it comes to what people think are the most important factors in a relationship, sex life and physical attraction come out surprisingly low compared to honesty, communication and commitment. Across all age groups, only three in ten people (32%) ranked ‘sex life/physical attraction’ in their top three important factors in a relationship**, with just 23% of people aged 65 and over doing so.

For 16-24 year olds, ‘sex life/physical attraction’ was considered more important, but still only 45% put it in their top three. In contrast, 71% of people across all age groups put honesty in their top three, 67% selected communication and 57% chose commitment.**

Bridie Collins, Director of Relationship Education and Support at Marriage Care, said:
“We feel valued when our partner takes the time to listen to our problems, sharing the storms with us as well as enjoying the sunshine. We build healthy relationships, and marriages that last, when we prioritise clear and honest communication with each other, throughout the ups and downs of life.  

"Couples can protect their relationship by learning simple techniques to help them communicate well, which in turn will help to nurture the joint commitment that this report shows people aspire to.”

Relate Counsellor Arabella Russell added: “Sharing problems is such an important part of building strong relationships, so it’s great that people of all ages see this as a top sign of commitment. Just being willing to open up and talk honestly about how you’re feeling can work wonders when going through problems – but it can be harder than it sounds.

"Whatever age we are and whatever commitment means to us, polishing up our communication skills will help our relationships stand more than a fighting chance.”

To see the full report about the study including methodology and infographics on each topic, click here.

*All figures, unless otherwise stated, are taken from The Way We Are Now 2015 – an annual study of the relationships of over 6000 people across the UK (aged 16+) by Relate, Relationships Scotland and Marriage Care. The online study was carried out by YouGov. Responses were gathered between 27 March and 7 April 2015. All figures are based on Relate analysis of data provided by YouGov Plc.

The results were weighted to make the data more representative of the population (of UK adults aged 16+) in terms of age, gender, region and country, and an indicator of social class (based on census information). The data featured here was analysed using STATA 13 with individual weights attached to all sample members. Therefore direct replication of the statistics featured here using the tables due to be published by YouGov may be subject to rounding errors. Analyses generally excluded those who did not answer questions or for whom the question was inapplicable. Any inaccuracies or errors in the further analyses of these data are the sole responsibility of Relate.

** For details of methodology, please see the report.


Get more inspiring reading

To find back issues of the INSPIRE mini-mag - seasonal and themed issues - go to