Frog Wedding Proposal

Do a ring and a baby have the power to ruin your relationship? While some people look toward marriage and parenthood with excitement, research has revealed that the challenges that come with these transitions can decrease relationship satisfaction (Leonhardt et al., 2021). Balancing the stress of taking care of another life while sleep deprived can understandably place a toll on a relationship. During these times of hardship, partners’ responses and support of one another is crucial! 

When people feel supported by their partners, either through an equal division of tasks, emotional support, or through responsiveness, they are more likely to report high levels of satisfaction (Clark et al., 2010 & Chong and Mickelson, 2013). Thankfully, due to the significant influence relationships have on our mental and physical health, researchers have been studying how to maintain high satisfaction during these times of transition. 

Chong & Mickelson (2013) have been examining the role of perceived fairness between couples on reports of spousal support and relationship satisfaction. When adjusting to these new transitions it may be difficult to respond to changes while ensuring equal support is provided. Therefore, findings suggesting perceived fairness significantly influences perceived spousal support and relationship satisfaction could push people to prioritize fairness. However, people are often told to not keep track of one another’s efforts as exchange norms, support that is only given with an expected return in mind, has a negative association with relationship satisfaction. Therefore, people must prioritize support, through emotions and tasks, without keeping track of one another’s actions. Research found that the mere perception of fairness in a relationship is crucial and more significant than the actual fairness in the division of labor since perceived fairness acts as a reflection of spousal support (Chong & Mickelson, 2013).

Support from your significant other as you both navigate changes is critical. When partners feel a lack of support they tend to have an increase of negative interactions with each other (Chong & Mickelson, 2013). When people perceived that there was fairness in their relationship and noticed responsiveness from their partner in lessening a burden during times of stress, through empathic accuracy, this indicated caring and spousal support which increased their satisfaction (Clark et al., 2010). Not only is support from your partner more meaningful when you are both encountering similar challenges as it shows caring, but during these initial transition periods people often consider their spouses as their primary source of support.

Although these challenges may arise and couples need to prioritize showing support, it is important to understand the scope of this decrease in relationship satisfaction. Leonhardt et al. (2021) revealed that there are fewer dissatisfied couples than is typically believed and the majority of couples in their study indicated moderate to high satisfaction following these transitions. While there may be a slight decline their analyses revealed that satisfaction and commitment levels remained quite high. Even in individuals who indicated lower levels of satisfaction, understandably due to normal challenges experienced, their levels of commitment on average were very high due to the investment theory (Leonhardt et al., 2021). So, if you are hoping to get married or have a child, you should definitely be excited, despite some people overemphasizing the challenges, and just remember to support one another, without keeping track of course!

  1. Chong, A., & Mickelson, K. D. (2013). Perceived fairness and relationship satisfaction during the transition to parenthood. Journal of Family Issues, 37(1), 3–28.×13516764  
  2. Clark, M. S., Lemay, E. P., Graham, S. M., Pataki, S. P., & Finkel, E. J. (2010). Ways of Giving Benefits in Marriage: Norm Use, Relationship Satisfaction, and Attachment-Related Variability. Psychological Science, 21(7), 944–951.  
  3. Leonhardt, N. D., Rosen, N. O., Dawson, S. J., Kim, J. J., Johnson, M. D., & Impett, E. A. (2021). Relationship satisfaction and commitment in the transition to parenthood: A couple‐centered approach. Journal of Marriage and Family, 84(1), 80–100.

3 Replies to “I do…do I?

  1. This blog post is incredibly insightful. Based on the readings, working towards maintaining relationship satisfaction through big life changes seems daunting. Your blog post indicates small acts that can maintain relationship satisfaction through these life changes including support and perceived fairness. I wonder how these results would differ based on the love language of the recipient. Would these acts of service maintain relationship satisfaction in those who value quality time? It is an interesting future direction to consider.

  2. It’s interesting to consider that while marriage and parenthood are universally acknowledged as major life transitions, individual perceptions and responses can widely vary and significantly impact relationship dynamics. The idea of perceiving fairness seems to play a critical role here, as highlighted by Chong & Mickelson (2013). It becomes not just about a quantifiable balance but the feeling that both partners are contributing justly according to their own capabilities and situations. Great blog post overall!

  3. This was such an interesting post! I found the discussion of perceived fairness (especially its greater importance than actual fairness) to be really interesting and pertinent to the question on our midterm about how benefits should be distributed in close relationships and whether fairness matters. At the time we took the test, I interpreted this question in the context of the Clark et al. 2019 paper that we read characterizing close romantic relationships as communal ones rather than exchange relationships, but this post and the articles it references are an interesting addition to the conversation!

Leave a Reply