Lowered Exectations/New Car - 5/04

Smart Marriages ® cmfce at smartmarriages.com
Mon May 17 18:40:30 EDT 2004

subject: Lowered Exectations/New Car - 5/04

from: Smart Marriages®


Los Angeles Times
May 17, 2004 
Starting with lower expectations may make relationships happier and
By Jane E. Allen,
Times Staff Writer

Call it the ultimate reality check: Newlyweds who lower their expectations
may have happier, and ultimately longer, marriages.

The idea that starry-eyed brides and grooms should take off the blinders may
seem counter to marriage counselors' advice to view a partner in a positive
light. But James McNulty, an assistant professor of psychology, says it's
based on the real-life experiences of 82 couples who joined a four-year
marriage study within a few months of tying the knot.

McNulty, of Ohio State University's Mansfield campus, found that newlyweds
ultimately were happier in their marriages if they had a true view of their
relationship and the skills to work through problems. Husbands and wives
with poor relationship skills and high hopes for happiness experienced deep
declines in satisfaction.

"If people expect their relationship to be perfect and don't solve their
problems very well, they become disappointed and less satisfied over time,"
he said. 

The ability to argue effectively when the inevitable conflicts arose,
without assigning blame or engaging in put-downs, was a critical factor in
determining whether high expectations would be dashed by reality.

But having great skills didn't ensure happiness if men and women entered a
marriage with very low expectations. High hopes can be a motivator for
solving problems.

The researchers watched videotapes of the couples discussing a problem in
their relationship and then rated their problem-solving skills. They also
reviewed questionnaires about the husbands' and wives' satisfaction and
expectations. The couples were reevaluated every six months.

Linda Waite, a University of Chicago sociologist who studies married and
unmarried couples, said the study essentially suggests that marriage
counselors shouldn't encourage everyone to look for the best, hope for the
best and expect the best.

"Even people with good relationship skills might hit a bad patch," she said.
"We're better off to tell people that relationships are no more perfect than
people are perfect, but that tough times can be gotten through."

Howard Markman, a psychologist who directs the Center for Marital and Family
Studies at the University of Denver, suggested couples take a marriage
education program, if necessary, to learn the necessary skills.

The study appears in the May issue of the Journal of Personality and Social


A few weeks ago, my wife got a new car, a sporty 4 door with leather and the
works.  [Formula: kids moving out of house = more money.]

The car has proven to be everything the salesman promised - great
suspension, comfortable leather, satellite radio, GPS navigation -  and she
loves driving it.

But imagine if the salesman had told her that in addition to all the
wonderful benefits of her new car, this particular model rejected dirt and
only needed to be washed once a year.  And what if he promised that the car
had an amazing new feature: you only need to fill the tank with gas once a
month; no matter how many miles you drove it!

Well, you can imagine that if all of that had been promised, she would not
be happy at all.  Rather, she would be complaining bitterly about a dirty
car that was stranded on the side of the road with no gas in the tank.
Moral: unrealistic expectations can ruin a really good thing.


The wonderful institution of marriage is often spoiled by people's
unrealistic expectations.  Many women enter marriage believing that all
their emotional needs will be met in this one, beautiful relationship.


Many men enter marriage believing this will now be their ticket to unlimited
sex on demand.

Wrong again (as I wipe the tears of laughter from my eyes).

Look, marriage is wonderful.  Don't ruin it with unrealistic expectations.
Learn what your marriage truly can and cannot be.  [Hint: don't take your
cues from Hollywood.]

Read good books on relationships.  Talk to people who have a good marriage.
Discuss real life issues with your minister or priest.  Attend a Laugh Your
Way to a Better Marriage seminar with Mark Gungor [Note: shameless plug].

Whatever you do, don't let unrealistic expectations spoil a wonderful thing.

To learn more about Mark Gungor and Laugh Your Way America!, visit us at
www.laughyourway.com or call 866-52-LAUGH.  Or, plan to take his seminar
"The Number One Key to Incredible Sex" at the Smart Marriages Dallas
conference - Sunday, July 11.


(Another version of the same study)
Internet Broadcasting Systems
May 12, 2004

For some newlywed couples, it may be better to expect difficult times rather
than anticipate a rosy future of wedded bliss, according to a new study.

Researchers found that couples were less likely to experience steep declines
in marital satisfaction if they had accurate pictures of their relationship,
even if that picture was not ideal.

Couples' expectations need to reflect their skills at dealing with problems,
said James McNulty, assistant professor of psychology at The Ohio State

"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

The results run counter to the advice of other researchers and therapists
who believe couples should always have high expectations for their marriage.

"It may make you happy in the short run to think your spouse is better than
he or she actually is," McNulty said, "but if the reality doesn't match the
image, eventually your satisfaction is going to decline."

The research involved 82 couples who joined the study within a few months of
their first marriage. At the beginning of the project, the participants were
videotaped while talking about an issue of difficulty in their marriage. The
researchers viewed this tape and then rated couples' problem-solving skills.

The couples also filled out questionnaires. They were retested every six
months for four years.

The results showed that participants who had high expectations for happiness
at the beginning of their marriage but poor relationship skills showed steep
declines in marital satisfaction over the first four years of marriage.
Those with low expectations and low skills didn't show equivalent declines
in satisfaction. 

Importantly, McNulty's study suggests that lowering expectations will not
benefit all couples. Couples in the study who did have good relationship
skills at the beginning of the relationship actually experienced steeper
declines in satisfaction when they had less positive expectations but more
stable satisfaction when they had more positive expectations.

McNulty said the situation with married couples is comparable to that of
students. A student who is intelligent and has the skills to get "A" grades
but doesn't have high expectations of succeeding will not put forth the
effort into studying and doing what is necessary to achieve high grades. The
same is true of married people who have good relationship skills but don't
expect high levels of satisfaction in marriage.

The study appears in the May issue of the Journal of Personality and Social

© 2004, Internet Broadcasting Systems, Inc.

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