Those who were unrealistically idealistic actually were happier with their marriage than the others over the three years.
She can't say for how long that positive idealization might fuel satisfaction, because of the study's length.
But she concluded, "seeing a less-than-ideal partner as a reflection of one's ideals predicted a certain level of immunity to the corrosive effects of time: People who initially idealized their partner highly experienced no declines in satisfaction."
"It's an important idea," said Eli Finkel, an associate professor of social psychology at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., who conducts relationship research.
The finding, he said, "does fly in the face of conventional wisdom," which warns people not to be too "blind" in love.
But the findings make sense, he said. "To the degree that I have this high evaluation of my partner, I interpret my partner's behavior as kind, funny and considerate," he said. The evaluation by these people may be "a little more positive" than the partner deserves, he noted.
The positive view, he said, may make day-to-day hurdles more bearable. "If you start from a place of positivity, you really see your partner as exactly the person you hoped you would be involved with, then all the little daily circumstances you face get interpreted through that lens," he said. Read: less disagreement, more satisfaction.
Or, as Finkel put it: "To the degree you think this is Prince Charming, it looks like there is no comeuppance for that."
To learn more about positive psychology, visit the University of Pennsylvania.
SOURCES: Eli Finkel, Ph.D., associate professor, social psychology, Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill.; Sandra Mu
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