We’ve all heard about the honeymoon period of relationships. That period of time right after a marriage or other serious relationship begins and you feel like you are on top of the world. You keep thinking, “How could I be so lucky to be with someone who is exactly what I ever wanted?” 

Well, I hate to break it to you, but you probably aren’t dating the person of your dreams. In fact, one study shows that friends’ evaluations of their close friends’ marriages tend to be lower than the self-evaluations of the people in the actual relationship (1). But how could your friend know you and your partner’s relationship more than you do? This same study shows that the friends’ evaluations are a reliable, though never perfect, source of evaluation for their close friend’s marriage.

But is this bad? Partners in more satisfying relationships tend to think of their partners as more virtuous than partners who are in less satisfying relationships. So, whether you are perceiving your “actual” partner or not, what matters is that you’re satisfied.

This begs the question: What makes a more satisfying relationship? 

It is common sense that people who are more responsive to their partners tend to be more successful in their relationship, but are there factors outside the relationship itself that can influence how satisfying a relationship is? One study linked better sleep to greater relationship satisfaction, but better sleep also comes with having better, more supportive relationships (2). Therefore, among college undergraduate students where loneliness is very common, having better relationships can decrease the amount of vulnerability that is felt and as a result increase sleep quality. 

Another study linked social and financial strain to poorer relationship quality (3). In this way, this study shows how outside factors can strongly influence the satisfaction we have within our relationships. Therefore, we can help our own relationships by maintaining a healthy life outside our relationships as well. 

So, who are you dating? Relationship satisfaction has both internal and external influences and consequences, and it may make us view our partners differently than others. However, if we maintain a healthy relationship inside and outside our relationships—whether it be being more responsive, getting more sleep, handling finances, etc.—we just might be satisfied!

References

  1. Murray, S. L., Holmes, J. G., Dolderman, D., Griffin, D. W. (2000). What the motivated mind sees: Comparing friends’ perspectives to married partners’ views of each other. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 36, 600- 620.
  1. Madsen, J. W., Hernández, L., Sedov, I., & Tomfohr-Madsen, L. M. (2021). Romantic relationship satisfaction is associated with sleep in undergraduate students. Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice.
  1. Nguyen, T. P., Karney, B. R., Kennedy, D. P., & Bradbury, T. N. (2021). Couples’ diminished social and financial capital exacerbate the association between maladaptive attributions and relationship satisfaction. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 45(3), 529–541.

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