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60-Second Mind

Why Dating Doesn't Predict Marital Success

Scientists confirm what may seem obvious to some: what satisfies us in dating, does not predict how happy we'll be in marriage. Christie Nicholson reports

[Below is the original script. But a few changes may have been made during the recording of this audio podcast.]

Many of us learn, most likely the hard way, that what brings happiness during dating is quite different from what satisfies us “until death do us part". The critical difference is how your perception of commitment changes once you are married.

This comes from a survey of 92 dating couples and 77 married couples, to be published this summer in the journal, Psychological Science.

For both types of couples, the primary predictor of happiness is your perception of whether your partner motivates you to live up to your aspirations and supports you in pursuit of your dreams.

But in marriage there is one additional type of support that does not appear to be a big deal in dating. In marriage, not surprisingly, there is a strong need to think your partner is actively helping you fulfill your current responsibilities and obligations.

The significant finding, the researchers say, is that we often believe that if our dating partner gives us support to follow our dreams, they’ll probably support other parts of our life, namely our immediate responsibilities. But the ability to inspire a partner is not an accurate predictor of support for the more mundane and immediate obligations. And this can sometimes lead to a rude awakening when the church bells ring.

So it’s true. For both men and women, a little help hauling out the garbage goes a long way towards marital bliss.

—Christie Nicholson

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