Wednesday, December 4, 2013

For a happy marriage you should lower your expectations...wait, what?

At our wedding, my husband and I asked our guests to give us advice on how to have a happy marriage. We received all the usual suspects:
  • Happy wife. Happy life. (This is a big one on my side of the family. Sorry, honey.)
  • Never go to bed angry. (I disagree; things often seem better after a long night's sleep.)
  • Communicate on everything.
  • Compromise.
  • Laugh often.
Not one of them said "have realistic expectations." But, evidently, according to two separate studies, that is a key to a happy marriage. The first study, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, claims that wives who are highly optimistic about the strength of their relationship are more likely to be dissatisfied later on.

These results mirror the conclusions of another study conducted by Lisa A. Neff and Andrew L. Greers, who found that newlyweds who exhibited higher levels of relationship-specific optimism "experienced steeper declines in marital well-being over time." The study indicates that optimism may act as a liability, hindering a couple's ability to problem-solve down the line, and the marriage suffers as a result. 

So, um...there you have it: To have a happy marriage, many women need to lower their expectations from romance novel "happily ever after" down to "reality" levels.

I have been with my husband for half my life. (Hold on...I just read that sentence and need a minute to process that And in that amount of time, we have communicated well, compromised lots, gone to bed angry, and laughed often. And, for the most part, I think we have had realistic levels of happiness. This may be because we were together for so long before we got married and knew exactly what we were getting into.

Which brings me to the piece of advice I usually find myself giving to married couples: Be friends. (At least it sounds better than "lower your expectations.")

What about you? Do you agree with the studies above? What advice would you give to newlyweds?

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