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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 May, 2004, 11:02 GMT 12:02 UK
Newlyweds advised to lower hopes
wedding ring
It may pay not to be too positive right now
The secret of a long and happy marriage appears to be not to expect too much from it.

US researchers say that, unless you have superior relationship skills, your hopes of cosy coupledom are likely to be dashed.

Far better, they say, to aim low to ensure you are not disappointed.

The key to keeping that newlywed glow appears to be forgiveness and communication.

The advice comes at an opportune time. The number of marriages in England and Wales rose by 2% in 2002, reversing a consistent decline since the early 1970s.


The study, by researchers from Florida University and Ohio State University, looked at 82 couples.

If you've got high expectations but you don't have the relationship skills, you may need to work at them
Christine Northam, Relate
They quizzed all the spouses independently over four years.

Their study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found those who believed their partner would be unfailingly kind and loving and agree with their every word, could retain their positive outlook by being forgiving, and having charitable explanations for their partner's negative behaviour.

However those with high expectations but without those relationship skills were likely to be brought down to earth fairly quickly as their Prince or Princess Charming falls off their pedestal.

In contrast, the researchers say holding a more prosaic view of your loved one means you are less likely to be disappointed, and therefore more satisfied, with your marriage.

Christine Northam, a spokeswoman for relationship counselling organisation Relate, told BBC News Online she felt positive outlooks were not a bad thing - and couples could work at improving poor relationship skills.

"Having high expectations can act as motivation.

"But if you've got high expectations but you don't have the relationship skills, you may need to work at them.

"Maintaining good relationships takes energy and activity."


Professor Alex Gardner, of the British Psychological Society, warned people may not live up to their partner's high expectations.

"The guy or the woman, though generally it's the man, can be so thick that they can't see what's being expected of them, or if they can see it, they might resent the expectations placed on them."

Previous research has found that people tend to select like-minded partners who they believe will be able to maintain a stable relationship.

The finding contradicts the old adage that opposites attract.

Instead, the US researchers said people looking for long-term relationships should select partners who were similar to themselves, rather than seeking out the highest quality partner available.

Marriage makes both sexes happy
03 Oct 02  |  Health
Opposites 'do not attract'
01 Jul 03  |  Health

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