People Who Think Their Partners Are a Perfect Fit Stay Happier—Even if They’re Wrong


People Who Think Their Partners Are a Perfect Fit Stay Happier—Even if They’re Wrong


Research published in Psychological Science has revealed that people who were unrealistically idealistic about their partner when they got married were more satisfied with their partner three years later than less idealistic people. This challenges the wisdom that says that if you idealise the person you marry, you will be disappointed when finding out that they aren’t everything you thought.

In the study, 222 couples were recruited as they applied for their marriage licenses in Buffalo, New York.

“We’ve never had trouble getting people involved in our research, because people are interested in relationships and in understanding their own relationship,” says Sandra Murray of the University of Buffalo, a co-author of the study. The participants filled out surveys on themselves, their partner, and their marriage every six months for three years.

Murray and her colleagues looked at the surveys to examine what people said about their hopes for an ideal partner, how they described their partner, and how the partners described themselves. From this the researchers were able to create a ranking of how idealistic, and how based in reality each person’s perception was.

Some people were unrealistically idealistic, and others were less so. For example: Joanne describes her ideal partner as athletic and smart, but not necessarily very creative. Her husband, Frank, is smart and creative, but not very athletic. If Joanne ranks him as more athletic than he truly is, then she is being unrealistically idealistic about him.

People with an unrealistically idealistic view of their spouse stayed happier over the next three years than people who were the least idealistic. Murray said that she and her colleagues were not surprised to see this due to years of research pointing in this direction.

“People are very good at changing their definitions to match how they want to see themselves or how they want to see others,” Murray says. “Someone can decide they’re a good driver—even if they’ve had speeding tickets—if they’ve never been in an accident.” In the same way, people might be able to decide that their spouse matches their ideal, even if it’s not really true.


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