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How long do romantic relationships usually last?

Romantic relationships can vary widely in how long they last. Some relationships are fleeting while others stand the test of time. On average, most romantic relationships tend to last between 1-3 years, though the duration can range from a few weeks to several decades.

The average duration of romantic relationships

Research suggests that most romantic relationships don’t make it past the two year mark. According to one study, only about 20% of new romantic relationships make it past two years (Lehmiller, 2018). Another study found that the average duration of first marriages that end in divorce is about 8 years (Copen et al, 2012).

However, the duration varies significantly based on a number of factors like age, previous relationship experience, and whether or not the couple lives together or gets married. Here’s an overview of how long most romantic relationships last on average:

  • High school romances: 3-8 months
  • College relationships: 13-15 months
  • 20s romances: 1-2 years
  • 30s romances: Around 2 years
  • 40s romances: 3.5 years
  • 50s romances: 4.5 years

High school and college relationships tend to be relatively short, while romances later in life last progressively longer. Marriage also extends the duration, with the average first marriage lasting around 8 years when it ends in divorce (Copen et al, 2012).

Factors that influence how long relationships last

Many different factors impact how long a romantic relationship lasts. Some of the key influences include:


Younger people tend to have shorter relationships on average. Teen romances often flame out after a few months. On the other hand, older adults tend to have more lasting relationships.

Relationship experience

People with more prior relationships under their belts tend to have longer subsequent relationships. Experience teaches relationship skills.


Couples that live together tend to have longer relationships than couples maintaining separate homes. Cohabiting signifies commitment.


Having children together leads couples to stay together longer. Kids connect partners and make separation more complicated.


Joint finances and shared economic resources make couples more interdependent and less likely to separate.

Education level

Couples with higher education have longer relationships on average. Education is linked to relationship skills.

Cultural background

Cultural differences in commitment and divorce influence relationship duration. Some cultures have shorter average relationships.

Personality traits

Certain personality traits like neuroticism are linked to shorter relationships, while conscientiousness predicts longer ones.

Reasons relationships end

Why do so many relationships fall apart? Here are some of the most common reasons:

Lack of commitment

Not being fully committed to the relationship and partner is one of the surest paths to a breakup. Commitment issues may involve:

  • Not putting the relationship first
  • Dishonesty
  • Infidelity
  • Unwillingness to compromise


Frequent arguing and inability to resolve disagreements strains relationships. Some conflict areas that contribute to breakups include:

  • Money
  • Intimacy and sex
  • Balancing work and family
  • Substance abuse
  • Mental health issues

Growing apart

Partners changing and wanting different things from life can lead to incompatibility and splitting up. Growing apart can involve:

  • Differing interests
  • Different goals/values
  • One partner outgrowing the other
  • Poor communication

Major life changes

Navigating major life transitions can strain relationships to the breaking point. Some key transitions include:

  • Having children
  • Moving
  • Changing careers
  • Retirement
  • Death of loved ones


Physical, emotional or psychological abuse has no place in a healthy relationship. Even one instance of abuse signals it’s time to end things.


For many couples, cheating spells the end of the relationship. Breaching trust through infidelity can damage a relationship beyond repair.

How to have a lasting relationship

While there are no guarantees, certain strategies can help promote longevity in romantic relationships:

Choose wisely

Invest time getting to know potential partners before committing. Seek out similar values and life goals. Avoid impulsiveness. Consider relationship role models.

Work at it

Successful long-term relationships require partners to invest time and effort. Nurture intimacy and connection. Seek help when needed. Prioritize the health of the relationship.

Embrace change

Accept that both partners will grow and evolve over time. Adapt to changes together, such as changing interests or career transitions.

Manage conflict well

Disagreements are normal, but how conflict is managed determines relationship success. Develop skills like compromise, empathy and communication.

Build resilience

Long-lasting couples are able to navigate major stresses and bounce back from hardships. Focus on resilience and shared coping skills.

Nourish commitment

Consistently reinforce devotion to the relationship and one another. Make your partner a priority in words and actions.


While the average relationship lasts around 1-3 years, many factors influence the longevity of romances. Age, experience, commitment level and life transitions all play a role. Common causes of breakups include lack of commitment, unresolved conflicts and major life changes. But lasting relationships are possible with factors like choosing the right partner, actively working at the relationship, managing conflict, coping with change and nurturing commitment. Investing time and effort into a strong, resilient relationship can help partners successfully navigate life’s ups and downs together.