We Just Got Married! Is It All Downhill From Here?

We have all heard the story. Two people get married, and at first it’s full of excitement and passion, but over time they find the love and happiness that was once part of their relationship fading. People often refer to this as the honeymoon phase, where couples report the most happiness at the beginning of their marriage. In other words, happiness goes from:

However, new research challenges the idea that marital decline is destined to happen. Instead, marriage researchers have found that a large percentage of couples stay happy in their marriages over time. In other words, they start extremely happy, and stay extremely happy over time. And that happiness is associated with a lower likelihood of divorcing and better well-being. So what are these happy couples doing?

  1. Happy couples have low levels of conflict in their relationship. And even when they do fight, they show more understanding of their partner’s perspective, and are less critical and defensive.
  2. Happy couples make time for each other. They report sharing more time together throughout their relationship. This is so important as couples today face many demands on their time, like childcare, work, school, and social responsibilities. But even in the midst of their hectic schedules, happy couples make sure they have carved out some time to invest in their relationship.
  3. Happy couples split the household chores. Unfortunately, there is no magic button that gets the dishes cleaned, floor vacuumed, and trash taken out. But, happy couples are able to divide chores fairly so that neither partner feels like they’re stuck taking care of everything.
  4. Happy couples act positively. For example, happy couples share laughs with their partner, show affection, and are interested in what’s going in their partner's life. They also are there to listen and provide support to their partner when they need it.
  5. Happy couples take care of themselves. Being happy in your marriage isn’t all about what you do with your partner, it also about how you take care of your mental health. When you feel refreshed, you are going to be more likely to give to your partner and invest in the relationship.

 

References

Anderson, J. R., Van Ryzin, M. J., & Doherty, W. J. (2010). Developmental trajectories of marital happiness in continuously married individuals: A group-based modeling approach. Journal of Family Psychology24, 587-597.

Don, B. P., & Mickelson, K. D. (2014). Relationship satisfaction trajectories across the transition to parenthood among low‐risk parents. Journal of Marriage and Family76, 677-692.

Finkel, E. J. (2017). The all-or-nothing marriage: How the best marriages work. Penguin.

Kamp Dush, C. M., Taylor, M. G., & Kroeger, R. A. (2008). Marital happiness and psychological well‐being across the life course. Family relations57, 211-226.

Lavner, J. A., & Bradbury, T. N. (2010). Patterns of change in marital satisfaction over the newlywed years. Journal of Marriage and Family72, 1171-1187.

Proulx, C. M., Ermer, A. E., & Kanter, J. B. (2017). Group‐based trajectory modeling of marital quality: A critical review. Journal of Family Theory & Review9, 307-327.

Volling, B. L., Oh, W., Gonzalez, R., Kuo, P. X., & Yu, T. (2015). Patterns of marital relationship change across the transition from one child to two. Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice4, 177-197.

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