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Despite the sunnier attitude, new research finds optimistic people may experience more marital difficulty compared to those with a pessimistic outlook.
While the benefit from a positive attitude is typically thought of as therapeutic, a study published in the July issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology warns overly-optimistic expectations can lead to heavy disappointment later on.
Researchers say some couples allow their presumed good fortune to prevent them from properly preparing for heartache.
Authors Lisa A. Neff and Andrew L. Geers conducted interviews with newly married couples for their research, specifically charting each partner’s outlook, whether more optimistic or pessimistic, along with their perceived risks of marital deterioration.
Spouses who had more general optimism were found to engage more in resolving conflict through positive problem solving.
However, those who limited their optimistic outlook to their relationship were found to have more fights with their partner.
“Those who limited their optimism to their
relationship were found to have more fights.”
As a result, these couples recorded sharp declines in terms of marital well-being over the course of the research.
Neff recommends new couples take the necessary steps to emotionally prepare for the possibility of difficult times ahead. She also advises setting more realistic expectations as a preventative measure.
According to Geers, oftentimes people don’t develop necessary coping skills specifically related to relationships. This means when things end badly, it is often the more optimistic partners who are hit the hardest.
The authors point out their findings in no way denigrate some of the more positive aspects to optimism, including improving stress management and helping build stronger connections with people.