Realistic Expectations Pivotal to Marital Bliss

Study finds couples who set sights too high are headed for a fall

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MONDAY, May 17, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Newlyweds should enjoy a dose of reality along with that wedding cake if they want to keep their marriage healthy, says a study in the May issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Researchers found newlywed couples were less likely to experience deep declines in marital satisfaction if they had a realistic picture of their relationship -- even if that picture was not completely rosy.

"Over the long term, it is important for marriage partners to have accurate knowledge of their relationship's strengths and weaknesses," co-author James McNulty, of Ohio State University, said in a prepared statement. "Satisfaction goes down when a spouse's expectations don't fit with reality."

The research involved 82 couples and started a few months after marriage. For the following four years, they were assessed on their satisfaction with the marriage and rated on their joint problem-solving skills.

Couples who had high expectations for happiness but poor relationship skills showed steep declines in marital satisfaction. Those with low expectations and low skills didn't show equivalent declines.

However, the opposite was true of couples with good relationship skills. Their marital satisfaction was higher if they already had high expectations.

More information

The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy has more about family problems.

SOURCES: Ohio State University, news release, May 11, 2004

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