“Don’t Stop Believin’” Excessive Optimism about Partner Makes for Happy Marriage: Psychology of Relationships

I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage, “the honeymoon’s over.”  Obviously, it means that the initial euphoria of being in love and/or being married usually wears off or transitions into a more realistic and less idealistic relationship. Why does this seem to happen?

Most partners, when initially committing to each other, have strong positive biases regarding their significant others’ traits, including both strengths and weaknesses. However, often the blinded-by-love opinions of the spouse become less favorable as time wears on.

This phenomenon was examined by researchers using 222 newlyweds as subjects over a three-year period, and their results were recently published in Psychological Science. All the participants were found to be relatively happy early in the marriage but their satisfaction declined over the three years of the study. However, one group—made up of couples in which both spouses had the most idealistic views of their partners at the beginning of the study—showed no decrease in marital satisfaction.

Which comes first—positive biases you have about your spouse, feeling better about yourself because your spouse idolizes you, or the rosy feeling you have when you’re sure your love for someone is being returned to you in spades?

The key to happiness seemed to be viewing your mate and the relationship in a very positive light (even more positively than others would) and being sure that the two of you can work through and resolve problems that arise. Are these young marrieds simply donning rose-colored glasses? Or do you think this approach to relationships is necessary for them to be lasting ones?