If You Like Coke & Your Partner Likes Pepsi, Your Relationship May Suffer, Science Says

by Candice Jalili

When you're in love and in a relationship, it's easy to feel a little scared. Yes, being in love is wonderful and makes you feel like you're literally floating on a cloud in the middle of a beautiful sunny day the large majority of the time. But still, there's always that lingering question of "is my relationship going to last?"

When trying to get to the bottom of this question, we usually turn to the bigger more common compatibility questions like "do we both want kids?" "Did we vote for the same person in the last election?" "Did we grow up in similar environments?"

Those are all obviously important factors, but a new study argues that whether or not you and your partner are compatible can essentially be boiled down to one simple question: Do you prefer Pepsi or Coke? OK, well, maybe it's not as simple as just Pepsi or Coke. In reality, it comes down to what brand you and your partner prefer on all sorts of items, like coffee, chocolate, beer, and cars.

What is "brand compatibility"?

The researchers, based at Duke University, found that brand compatibility (AKA being loyal to the same brand) has the potential to affect how happy you and your boo are in your relationship more than other factors we usually think of.

"People think compatibility in relationships comes from having similar backgrounds, religion or education," study co-author Dr. Gavan Fitzsimons, Ph.D, marketing professor at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, explained in a press release. "But we find those things don't explain how happy you are in life nearly as much as this notion of brand compatibility."

Why is brand compatibility such a big deal?

Basically, the study operated under the assertion that every relationship has a more powerful person and a less powerful person. Because of this dynamic, the less powerful person usually ends up going along with the more powerful person's brand preferences. For example, if the more powerful person prefers Coke and the less powerful person prefers Pepsi, the less powerful person likely ends up having to drink Coke every time, even though they don't like it as much.

It doesn't seem like a big deal right off the bat, but according to Dr. Danielle Brick, PhD, one of the study co-authors, this small issue builds into something larger as time wears on.

If you are lower in relationship power and have different brand preferences than your partner, you're probably going to find yourself stuck with your partner's favorite brands, over and over again. This could lead to a death-by-a-thousand-cuts feeling. Most couples won't break up over brand incompatibility, but it leads to the low power partner becoming less and less happy.

Basically, if your partner is constantly buying Coke when you prefer Pepsi, you may eventually start letting that affect your view of the relationship as a whole

How does brand compatibility compare to the other "big" issues we're used to hearing about?

According to Brick, having a classically big issue like glaring religious differences is still a bigger deal for your relationship than your partner liking a different soda brand than you do. That being said, the difference comes in how we deal with them. While we usually deal with big issues like religious differences upfront, people tend to ignore small annoyances, like your partner buying a brand you hate.

Brick explained that you deal with the issues like religious differences upfront because you know that, if you don't, "the relationship isn't going to last." However, she warned the conflict with brand compatibility isn't quite so immediate:

If you like Coke and your partner likes Pepsi, you're probably not going to break up over it— but 11 years into a relationship, when he or she keeps coming home with Pepsi, day in and day out, it might start to cause a little conflict. And if you're the low-power person in the relationship, who continually loses out on brands and is stuck with your partner's preferences, you are going to be less happy.

All right, now go home and ask your partner what all their favorite brands are to see if you guys are compatible.

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