Unreality Check

Aug 8, 2012 by

A scientific study about to be published by a psychologist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois has been making a bit of commotion in the news lately. It seems some people are not too happy with the findings that Daniel Molden, assistant professor of psychology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern, and his staff have concluded from an experiment to examine the differences between the ways dating couples and married couples view their respective significant others.

As the study points out, marriages in the United States are not as rock-solid as they might have once been, with nearly half ending in divorce these days. Molden and staff polled 169 couples, both dating and married, as to the quality of their relationships. There were happy couples in both groups of course, but one surprising fact to come out of the study was that the happiest couples in either camp were not always the most realistic. Say what?

That’s right, the couples with the most critically realistic views about their partner’s strengths and weaknesses – were not the happiest. People with spouses or partners that were perhaps a bit more unrealistic, were the happiest and had the best relationships. The conclusion seems to be that people who put on rose-colored glasses when viewing their partners had better estimations of the quality of their relationships. Thus, an ongoing state of denial could possibly be the fountain of youth for love relationships, keeping them alive and fresh for far longer than a critically sober point of view does.

Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but it seems happiness is in the mind of the person who doesn’t look to hard. It may be easy to find fault with your partner, but it is probably better for your marriage or relationship to look the other way and give them the benefit of the doubt. So, the next time you are asked to evaluate your relationship partner in any way, be generous, don’t look too closely and things will be a lot smoother for both of you.

Molden’s complete study will be published in the upcoming July issue of Psychological Science.

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