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Listen to your gut if you want a happy marriage

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Couples instinctively know if their partner will make for a happy marriage.

Michael Olson, associate professor of psychology, and Jim McNulty of Florida State University conducted a first study that shows gut instinct is a good predictor of a happy marriage.

The findings, published in this week's edition of Science, tested couple's "automatic" attitudes toward their partners who also reported their level of marital satisfaction.

The study

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The researchers followed 135 newlyweds for four-years who also reported the severity of problems within their marriage every six-months to measure their conscious attitudes.

To gauge their automatic or gut reactions to relationship happiness the couples were shown images of their partners with words that were either negative or positive. Quickly identified positive words like “wonderful” and slowly identified negative words like “awful” meant a positive automatic response to a partner. Conversely, partners’ who quickly identified negative words when they saw their spouse were deemed to have negative attitudes about their marriage.

Olsen explains our subconscious attitudes about marriage can’t be distorted, unlike our conscious attitudes.

"Although they may be largely unwilling or unable to verbalize them, people's automatic evaluations of their partners predict one of the most important outcomes of their lives—the trajectory of their marital satisfaction," said Olson.

Partners were happier in their marriages when their automatic attitudes were more positive. When it comes to marrying, the authors say newlyweds instinctively “know” if a marriage will fail.