Love, sex, and heartbreak: Commonalities in American relationship experiences

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
Carl BialikU.S. Politics Editor and Vice President of Data Science
February 09, 2024, 3:01 PM GMT+0

Are love, sex, and heartbreak universal experiences? To find out which romantic milestones adults in the U.S. have in common, a recent YouGov survey asked Americans whether they've ever had over two dozen relationship experiences, including generally positive events — such as falling in love at first sight or getting engaged — as well as negative ones, such as being cheated on or broken up with. We also explore whether Americans have been in relationships with people who differ from them, such as by race, religion, or education.

Falling in love

Nine in 10 Americans (89%) say they’ve been in love, and most have expressed their feelings to that special someone: 78% say they’ve told a romantic interest they love them and 82% say someone else has told them the same. Just under half of people — 46% — say they’ve experienced love at first sight. 22% say they’ve been in a love triangle.

Dating and relationships

The vast majority of Americans have gone on a date (88%) and about as many have been in a romantic relationship (86%). Roughly two in three say they’ve lived with a partner (66%) and similar proportions have been engaged (67%) or been married (66%). About half say they’ve been in a long-distance relationship (52%) and a similar share have had an on-again off-again relationship. 11% have been in a polyamorous or open relationship.


Most people — 88% — say they’ve had sex before. Half have had a one-night stand (51%), while a smaller share has been in an ongoing friend-with-benefits relationship (38%).

Breakups and betrayal

Most Americans have broken up with someone (77%) and nearly as many have been broken up with (72%). Fewer than half as many — 30% — have been divorced. A little over half (58%) say they’ve been cheated on, though just 34% say they have cheated on someone.

The age of love

With years more of life, older Americans generally are more likely than younger Americans to have experienced many parts of love, sex, and romance, but love triangles and love at first sight are more common among adults under 30.

Partner characteristics

While some sing that opposites attract, many Americans lack relationship experiences with people who differ from them in a few major ways. A majority of Americans (55%) say they've been in a serious relationship involving an age gap of five or more years. Fewer say they've been with someone who is significantly different from them in regards to educational attainment (53%), wealth (46%), or religion (45%). 39% say they've had a partner who is a different race or ethnicity and 32% say they've had one who is at least a foot taller or shorter than they are. Just 31% say they've been with someone affiliated with a different political party. Despite having fewer years of life experience, younger adults are more likely than those 65 and older to have had relationships with people who differ from them based on their race, height, or where they live.


See the results for this YouGov poll

Methodology: This poll was conducted online on January 26 - 29, 2024 among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to November 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 31% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 4%.

Image: Getty (xjben)