British Columbia

Secret to a happy marriage discovered by B.C. researchers

A new study says having an idealized view of your spouse may be the secret to matrimonial bliss.

UBC researchers examined common traits of the few who were still satisfied with their spouse

A new study by researchers at the University of British Columbia suggests being idealistic about your spouse can lead to a happier marriage. (Beverley Goodwin/Flickr)

Having an idealized view of your spouse may be the secret to matrimonial bliss, a new study suggests.

Dale Griffin, a business pyschologist at the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia, studies how well people can predict the future.

"Across most of those settings it's better to be realistic — if you can anticipate the dangers ahead, you succeed," Griffin told CBC's All Points West radio show. "But across different areas of life, there were some where we thought being a bit out of touch with reality may be an advantage."

Griffin's research looked at new marriages over a five-year period, examining objective data like whether or not couples remained together, as well as softer data like satisfaction and happiness.

"The key finding is that the average person becomes less and less satisfied over five years," said Griffin.

But not all individuals fit that pattern. Griffin found that those who were still satisfied with their marriage also had an idealized view of their partner — they ignored their flaws and saw their spouse in an unrealistically positive light.

"Seeing the best in your partner actually leads you, our research finds, to be more forgiving when they do something wrong," said Griffin.

That forgiveness, according to Griffin, is significant.

"We see that these people who are having the successful marriages, who are idealizing, are really very forgiving in how they attribute problems," he said.

When idealists' spouses did something wrong, they were more likely to attribute the problem to factors other than the spouse themselves.

Griffin believes he can apply his findings to workplace relationships as well. He will examine scenarios in which it may be better for colleagues to be optimistic rather than realistic with each other.

To listen to the full interview, click on the audio labelled: UBC researchers uncover secret to a happy marriage

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.