It’s no surprise that couples with compatible communication styles tend to stick together, but here’s a twist: researchers now say that four out of five couples with compatible writing styles are likely to stay committed. According to a recent study, couples who demonstrate this “written synchrony” are far more likely to go the distance than those who don’t.
The study, which was published by the Association for Psychological Science, tracked patterns in everyday written communication between dating couples over the course of 10 days. In particular, they focused on online chats, which they analyzed using a computer program. They found that nearly 80 percent of the couples whose writing styles were stylistic matches were still together three months later, compared with 54 percent of couples whose written styles didn’t match as well.
In particular, the study looked at how participants used “function words.” Slightly hard to define without getting into a full-on grammar lesson, these are words that show how nouns and verbs relate (examples include the, a, be, anything, that, will, him, and and). As one co-author of the study, James W. Pennebaker, PhD, explains, how we use these seemingly simple words profoundly shapes a person’s writing and speaking style. “Function words are highly social and they require social skills to use,” he says.
That’s exactly why they reveal so much about both individuals and couples. These patterns in our communication offer windows into the inner workings of our brains, and how we contextualize the things around us. If those processes are synchronous within a couple, it indicates a similar way of seeing the world. And, as Pennebaker notes, people don’t intentionally synchronize their communication habits: “What’s wonderful about this,” he says, “is we don’t really make that decision; it just comes out of our mouths.”
Another study conducted by the same team highlighted just how integral those words are to our communication styles. After arranging a series of four-minute speed dates for pairs of college students, the team analyzed the patterns of their speech. They found that while the conversations covered many of the same topics—things like hometowns, majors, and hobbies—their use of function words varied greatly. The pairs that used function words similarly were four times more likely to want to see each other again despite being unaware of the commonality.
Couples may find this insight provides an important clue into whether their relationship has long-term compatibility. But even beyond that, it shows that our compatibility runs so much deeper than our feelings, values, and interests: it’s embedded in the very framework of our thoughts, and silently shared every time we communicate. And for more dating insights, check out Men Are More Likely To Have This Relationship Regret.