Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Some married couples will do better by lowering expectations, study finds

12.05.2004


For some newlywed couples, it may be better to expect difficult times rather than anticipate a rosy future of wedded bliss, according to a new study.

Researchers found that couples were less likely to experience steep declines in marital satisfaction if they had accurate pictures of their relationship – even if that picture was not ideal.

The key is for couples’ expectations to reflect their skills at dealing with problems and issues in their relationship, said James McNulty, co-author of the study and assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University’s Mansfield campus.



“Over the long term, it is important for marriage partners to have accurate knowledge of their relationship’s strengths and weaknesses,” McNulty said. “Satisfaction goes down when a spouse’s expectations don’t fit with reality.”

The results run counter to the advice of other researchers and therapists who believe couples should always have high expectations for their marriage.

“There’s been a lot of emphasis on the idea of positive illusions in marriage,” McNulty said. “Sure, it may make you happy in the short-run to think your spouse is better than he or she actually is, but if the reality doesn’t match the image, eventually your satisfaction is going to decline.”

McNulty conducted the study as part of his doctoral dissertation at the University of Florida. His co-author was his dissertation advisor, Benjamin Karney. Their study appears in the May issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The research involved 82 couples who joined the study within a few months of their first marriage. At the beginning of the project, the participants were videotaped while talking about an issue of difficulty in their marriage. The researchers viewed this tape and then rated couples’ problem-solving skills.

The participating couples also completed questionnaires that examined their levels of satisfaction with their marriage, their expectations for future satisfaction, and expectations for the way their partners would behave. They also completed a questionnaire aimed at assessing a second relationship skill - whether the participants are likely to blame their spouses for problems that could arise in their marriage.

Each of the spouses was re-tested at six-month intervals for four years – for a total of eight tests to gauge marriage satisfaction. (Of the 82 couples, 17 were divorced by the end of the study. All but five were married long enough to be included in the analysis.)

The results showed that participants who had high expectations for happiness at the beginning of their marriage – but poor relationship skills – showed steep declines in marital satisfaction over the first four years of marriage. Those with low expectations and low skills didn’t show equivalent declines in satisfaction.

Importantly, McNulty’s study suggests that lowering expectations will not benefit all couples. Couples in the study who did have good relationship skills at the beginning of the relationship actually experienced steeper declines in satisfaction when they had less positive expectations but more stable satisfaction when they had more positive expectations.

“Many people would think couples with good relationship skills but low expectations would be pleasantly surprised by the positive outcomes that would come about because of their good relationship skills,” he said. “But if they have low expectations, they may not put forth the effort to work on their relationship. So their low expectations really prevent them from taking advantage of their skills and achieving their potential satisfaction.”

McNulty said the situation with married couples is comparable to that of students. A student who is intelligent and has the skills to get “A” grades – but doesn’t have high expectations of succeeding– will not put forth the effort into studying and doing what is necessary to achieve high grades. The same is true of married people who have good relationship skills but don’t expect high levels of satisfaction in marriage.

On the other hand, a student who does not have the skills to get “A” grades - but still expects to get “A” grades in all of his classes - may be just setting himself up for frustration and disappointment, he said.

“Psychologically, they would be better off if they realized they won’t get ‘As’ but still worked hard enough to get grades of ‘B’ or ‘C,’” McNulty said. “In the same way, couples who don’t have good relationship skills have to be realistic about their marriage. That doesn’t mean they give up – they just need to try harder to improve their relationship skills and know to expect some bumps in the road.”

Couples who have poor relationship skills and low expectations obviously aren’t in an ideal situation, McNulty said. Their levels of satisfaction with their marriage are lower than average. “But they don’t experience a big drop in their satisfaction over time. Thus, their situation is preferable to those with poor skills and high expectations, who start off with lower levels of satisfaction and then drop even further,” he said.

McNulty is continuing this line of research at Ohio State. He has recruited 72 new couples whom he will follow over the next several years to further probe the relationship between expectations and satisfaction.

The current study was supported in part by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health.


Contact: James McNulty, (419) 755-4352; McNulty.36@osu.edu
Written by Jeff Grabmeier, (614) 292-8457; Grabmeier.1@osu.edu

Jeff Grabmeier | OSU
Further information:
http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/marsatis.htm

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht Fixating on faces
26.01.2017 | California Institute of Technology

nachricht Internet use in class tied to lower test scores
16.12.2016 | Michigan State University

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Transport of molecular motors into cilia

28.03.2017 | Life Sciences

A novel hybrid UAV that may change the way people operate drones

28.03.2017 | Information Technology

NASA spacecraft investigate clues in radiation belts

28.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>