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Psychol Sci. 2011 May;22(5):619-26. doi: 10.1177/0956797611403155. Epub 2011 Apr 5.

Tempting fate or inviting happiness?: unrealistic idealization prevents the decline of marital satisfaction.

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Department of Psychology, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, Buffalo, NY 14260-4110, USA.


This article examines whether unrealistically viewing a romantic partner as resembling one's ideal partner accelerates or slows declines in marital satisfaction among newlyweds. A longitudinal study linked unrealistic idealization at the time of marriage to changes in satisfaction over the first 3 years of marriage. Overall, satisfaction declined markedly, a finding that is consistent with past research. However, seeing a less-than-ideal partner as a reflection of one's ideals predicted a certain level of protection against the corrosive effects of time: People who initially idealized their partner the most experienced no decline in satisfaction. The benefits of idealization remained in analyses that controlled separately for the positivity of partner perceptions and the possibility that better adjusted people might be in better relationships.

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