Infographic of the Day: Love Is a Battlefield

Visualizing how love flowers, withers, and dies using a type of chart better known for showing war casualties.

Infographic of the Day: Love Is a Battlefield

Remember how Pat Benatar sang that love is a battlefield? Truer words were never spoken, and along those lines, infographics whiz Lee Byron has used a technique better known for showing war casualties to visualize how sexual relationships begin, flower, and die.


The so-called Sankey Diagram was made most famous by this astonishing chart of Napoleon’s disastrous invasion of Russia during wintertime. The tan band you see represents the size of his army; over time, it gets skinnier as troops die in the hellish cold. The black line represents the final troop force that survived the march on Moscow, and retreated all the way back to Paris. As you can see, hardly any lived:

[Click for large version]

If this graph seems at all familiar, that’s because Edward Tufte holds it up as one of the greatest examples of data viz ever made — in fact, he sells prints of the chart on his website.

But back to love! Lee Byron, best known as the inventor of the streamgraph you see on Last.Fm and elsewhere, used a Sankey Graph to visualize the war of attrition that happens from the first date onwards, using data drawn from Durex’s sex survey, the U.S. Census, and elsewhere:

[Click for ginormous version]

As you can see, there are 3 million first dates every single day. Some of those end up in a one-night stand. Hell, some even end up in marriage. But 56% of married couples aren’t satisfied with their sex lives, and 22% of them scratch that itch by cheating. And as you can see from the side chart, cheating varies by culture — a whopping 58% of Turks admit to having something on the side while just 7% of Israelis do.


Meanwhile, on the pie chart on the bottom left, you can see all the reasons why relationships break up, from bad sex to a loss of spark. (Of course, 30% say “other,” but we’re guessing that’s because every break up feels totally unique when you’re going through it.)

And all the way down at the end? 5.8% of people die having never married. Which, come to think of it, sounds like a good thing at times.

[Via Lee Byron]

About the author

Cliff is director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.