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Marital bliss in trouble? Stop expecting so much from your spouse

sex and relationships Updated: Mar 18, 2016 19:58 IST
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The extent to which spouses’ standards are associated with changes in satisfaction over time depend on the couples’ tendencies to engage in indirect hostility, claims a recent study.(Shutterstock)

Having high expectations from your spouse can lead to unnecessary conflict and even divorce, finds a newly-published study.

For marriages involving higher levels of indirect hostility or other severe problems, keeping high expectations further erodes the relationship, researchers warn, adding that high standards — whether in caring, support or independence — improve satisfaction only in strongly-bonded marital ties.

“Some people demand too much from their marriages because they feel that their marriages must fulfill the needs that they are not capable of achieving either because they have limited time, energy, effort, or skills to apply to their marriages,” explained lead researcher James McNulty from Florida State University.

Couples that work well together are better able to meet higher standards and thus show high satisfaction to the extent that they held such standards. (Shutterstock)

“But there are other people who demand too little from their marriages. Their marriage is a potential source of personal fulfillment that they are not exploiting,” McNulty added in the paper published in the journal of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

To reach this conclusion, the team collected data from 135 newly-wed couples. The couples continued to report their marital satisfaction via a questionnaire every six months for four years.

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As newly-weds, husbands and wives reported being relatively satisfied with their marriages and relatively high standards. Yet their reports also indicated that some couples were less happy and demanded less than others.

The extent to which spouses’ standards were associated with changes in satisfaction over time depended on the couples’ tendencies to engage in indirect hostility.

Couples that worked well together, as indicated by low levels of indirect hostility, were better able to meet higher standards and thus showed high satisfaction to the extent that they held such standards.

The opposite was true for couples that didn’t work well together.

“The research suggests that people need to have some idea of what they can get from marriage before they get it. That is obviously difficult which may explain why couples experience a mismatch between what they demand and what they can actually attain,” McNulty noted.

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The findings highlight the fact that various constraints prevent some spouses from meeting higher standards despite even the highest motivations.

Indeed, some relationships face larger obstacles to success than do others and some spouses possess more and better interpersonal skills than do others, the authors noted.

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