Monday, April 27, 2009

Aiming at the middle.....

Ohio State University researchers seem to have found a measurable relationship between marital expectation and satisfaction. They studied 82 married couples for a period of four years. According to James McNulty, co-author of the study and assistant professor of psychology at OSU’s Mansfield campus, couples who had lower expectations didn't suffer the steep declines in marital satisfaction when compared to peers with delusions of Happy Days sitcoms dancing around in their heads. “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.”
“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.”
Why is this groundbreaking? Well, it’s not really. Choose your euphemism: “pick your battles”, or “don’t sweat the small stuff”. The point is that you adapt. You overlook some things, and give up on others. This certainly isn’t your run of the mill daytime talk show advice; in fact, the results are contrary to the advice of mainstream therapists who believe couples should always have high expectations for their marriage.
Me? I don’t know that I would call it lowering ones expectations, but I will say that having a healthy sense of reality goes a long way. The OSU researchers interviewed the couples at six-month intervals–a total of eight tests over the four year period. Interestingly enough, of the 82 couples, 17 were divorced by the end of the study.
I found an interesting quote on another blog about expectations in the era right after the Civil War. Here's a sample of a personal ad from the late 1800s:
"I am 33 years of age, and as regards looks can average with most men. I am looking for a lady to make her my wife, as I am heartily tired of bachelor life. I desire a lady not over 28 or 30 years of age, not ugly, well educated and musical. Nationality makes no difference, only I prefer not to have a lady of Irish birth. She must have at least $20,000. " Really???