Page last updated at 12:36 GMT, Monday, 13 February 2006

Wedded bliss 'only lasts a year'

Tying the knot
Married couples are happier than singletons, research suggests

There's bad news if you're a newly-wed - married bliss only lasts for about a year, research suggests.

Although almost all couples see a honeymoon effect for around 12 months - the magic soon fades, a study of 15,000 people in Germany suggests.

The Journal of Socio-Economics study found that except for a mild recovery in years three to five - it was all downhill after the first year.

But the Swiss study found that couples were generally happier than singletons.

The University of Zurich study, "Does Marriage make people happy or do happy people get married?", said people who engaged in marriage were committed to a "mutually rewarding exchange".

'Romantic notion'

"Spouses expect some benefits from the partner's expressed love, gratitude and recognition as well as from security and material reward," said report author Dr Alois Stutzer.

It also provides some "basic insurance against adverse life events", he said.

But those who co-habit in accepting societies are also significantly happier than those who live alone, the researchers added.

As the year of marriage approaches, people report higher levels of satisfaction on average, but afterwards satisfaction with life decreases.

In the first year of marriage, the subjects reported average satisfaction rates of about 7.6, but this dropped to 7.4 out of 10 in the second year.

The downward trend continues to fall until years four and five when there is a bit of a revival of earlier happiness.

This working relationship can be the most amazing and successful but it will only happen if you get real about it
Christine Northam

But the downward trend soon continues, rising only slightly in year seven. By year 10, average couples are slightly less happy than before they tied the knot.

The researchers suggest happiness may decline after the first year because couples take the benefits of their union for granted.

Others suggest it may be due to financial pressures or the constraints of raising children.

Christine Northam, senior counsellor with Relate, the UK's largest marriage and relationship counselling provider, said the first flush of happiness was probably to do with the intense sexual attraction couples feel for each other.

With time this intense high is replaced by something more normal, she says.

But she said the disappointment people sometimes feel was often prompted by romantic notions of marriage rather than viewing it as a working relationship.

Division of labour

"This working relationship can be the most amazing and successful thing, but it will only happen if you get real about it.

"If you have been in a marriage for 30 or 40 years, you have already got real - you've grown up," she added.

The Swiss study also found there were social factors which affected people's satisfaction levels.

Those with large relative wage differences, benefit more than those with smaller wage differences, it found.

It also found that couples where responsibilities for earning and looking after the children were split between the two were relatively happier.

"Potential, as well as actual division of labour seems to contribute to spouses' well-being, especially for women and where there is a young family to raise," the study published by Elsevier said.


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