Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

On average, most people do not experience long-term changes in satisfaction following marriage.

That surprising conclusion was reached by researchers studying marital status and life satisfaction in a longitudinal sample of more than 1,500 people back in 2003. The researchers looked at how baseline levels of happiness change or don’t change based on dramatic life events, such as marriage, divorce or the death of a spouse.

For example, researchers say the study suggests that people who get married and stay married are more satisfied than average long before the marriage occurs. One possible reason — a person who is very satisfied with life prior to marriage probably already has a rich social network and thus has less to gain from the companionship of marriage. Thus, while marriage is a positive occurrence for those people, it’s not life changing. Conversely, a person who is lonely or less happy before marriage has much more to gain.

The results of this study tweak the notion that we all fall back into a “baseline” of happiness after a significant event occurs. The reality is more nuanced. Some people do resort back to previous levels of happiness after the initial phase of their marriage. In other words, they “settle in.” But others don’t. In fact, they report far lower levels of happiness after marriage than they experienced before marriage. One way researchers explain these differences is that while marriage can be very rewarding, it can also be very stressful to people and that stress may cause long-term damage to one’s overall satisfaction system.

To sum up — while marriage can be a life-changing experience (and not always for the better), it’s impact on our long-term happiness appears smaller than we realize, especially if we were pretty satisfied prior to going into it. That’s not to suggest marriage is a waste of time or not valuable. On the contrary. It’s a major satisfaction resource. But perhaps it means expectation levels should be tempered prior to this important event.

Source: Re-examining adaptation and the setpoint model of happiness: Reactions to changes in marital status. Lucas, R. E., Clark, A. E., Georgellis, Y., & Diener, E. (2003).  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 527-539.

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So he leaves the lights on around the house. She barely picks up after herself.

So what?

Studies show positive, idealized illusions about our spouse or partner often generate greater satisfaction and less conflict than thinking in terms of “reality.”

According to researchers, people apparently seem to project their image of an idealized partner on the partner they possess. They also report being happier in their relationship when they see their partner more generously than their partner see themselves, and they are happier in their relationships when their partner puts the best possible spin on them and returns the favor.

Researchers say all of these positive illusions become self-fulfilling. People seem to create the partner they desire by idealizing them. They also come to see the same virtues in themselves that their partner initially perceived in them.

Source: Reflections on the Self-Fulfilling Effects of Positive Illusions by Sandra L. Murray, John G. Holmes and Dale W. Griffin

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When it comes to friends and happiness, quality matters.

People have known this for centuries. One good friend means more to us than 20 acquaintances. But now recent studies appear to back up this common knowledge, and the results could have significant implications to recent trends in online social networking.

Researchers Meliksah Demir and Lesley Weitekamp wanted to explore the interrelationships between personality, friendship and happiness. Specifically, they wanted to know whether friendship contributed to happiness if personality stayed out of the picture. After surveying more than 400 young adults, they concluded that happiness accounted for nearly 60 percent of the variance in happiness. The authors of the study suggest that even though one could be predisposed to being happy, having a friendship that is high in quality “still adds something extra to our lives and has the potential to increase one’s happiness level.” The researchers also suggest that friendship is important regardless of a person’s personality.

What were the two most important characteristics of friendship that seem to predict happiness? Companionship and self-validation. In other words, in the U.S. we want our friends to be with us. We also want them to help us maintain our self-image by being reassuring and encouraging.

Source: I Am So Happy ‘Cause Today I Found My Friend: Friendship and Personality as Predictors of Happiness by Meliksah Demir and Lesley A. Weitekamp

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Want to be happily married? If you are seeking a spouse — take note. Find someone with a similar personality.

That’s the conclusion reached by researchers at the University of Iowa, who studied 291 newlyweds participating in the Iowa Marital Assessment Project.

The couples were evaluated on a broad range of personality characteristics, attitudes and relationship-quality indicators. They also had to have been married less than a year when the study began and had to have been dating each other for an average of three and a half years.

The results of the study showed that people tend to marry those who are similar in attitudes, religion and values. However, it was a similarity in personality that appeared to be more important in having a happy marriage.

“People may be attracted to those who have similar attitudes, values, and beliefs and even marry them – at least in part – on the basis of this similarity because attitudes are highly visible and salient characteristics and they are fundamental to the way people lead their lives,” said the authors in their study. Personality-related characteristics, on the other hand, take much longer to be known and to be accurately perceived and are not likely to play a more substantial role until later in the relationship, according to the authors.

Researchers said that once people are in a committed relationship, it is primarily personality similarity that influences marital happiness because “being in a committed relationship entails regular interaction and requires extensive coordination in dealing with tasks, issues and problems of daily living.”

And what about opposites? Do opposites attract? Not according the researchers. They say their data showed no evidence of it.
Source: Assortative Mating and Marital Quality in Newlyweds: A Couple-Centered Approach.  Shanhong Luo and Eva C. Klohnen, University of Iowa; Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 88, No. 2.

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No wonder the U.S. divorce rate hovers near 50%.

Couples (both heterosexual and homosexual) comprise a complex satisfaction system of competing and shared interests, individual stimulation needs, and reactions to societal pressures.


Take a young couple. Sharing a life together means experiencing new adventures, sharing intimate thoughts, adding new friends and and generally exponentially increasing one’s resources. But later — when the newness wears off — does the couple “settle in” at equal satisfaction levels or does one person become dissatisfied with things? Is one person bored and needs greater stimulation? Is another person unhappy with the other person’s behavior or dissatisfied with that person’s communication skills? Does a lack of one resource — money — cause other dissatisfactions — to the point that when one adds up the pluses and minuses — the result is unhappiness?

In our society, we typically don’t spend enough time thinking through and even articulating what satisfactions we want from our partner before that partnership is consummated. We assume things will take care of themselves and, sadly, they don’t — at least for half of the U.S. population. Perhaps what we all need is a Satisfaction Audit — administered by a registered psychologist or therapist and required before we’re granted a marriage certificate. That may save a lot of heartache somewhere down the split in the road.

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