High Expectations Make Happy Marriages

January 15, 2014

It’s clear that the curse of low expectations applies to mating as well as education. Contrary to the belief that women have excessively long checklists for mating, we’ve learned that people who are afraid of remaining single tend to pursue and settle for low quality relationship partners. A new study demonstrates that this is the case in marriage as well.

Via Barking Up the Wrong Tree:

“More and more people are told their expectations for marriage are too high. Research says the reverse: people who expect more, get more.

Don’t settle for a second-rate marriage.”

Via For Better: How the Surprising Science of Happy Couples Can Help Your Marriage Succeed:

Dr. Baucom found that people who have idealistic standards, who really want to be treated well and who want romance and passion from their marriage, end up getting that kind of marriage. Men and women with low standards, who don’t expect good treatment, communication, or romance, end up in relationships that don’t offer those things… Husbands and wives who hold their partners to a reasonably high standard have better marriages. If you expect a better, more satisfying relationship, you improve your chances of having one.

As in the other studies, this finding holds true for both sexes. I believe it also applies to relationships prior to marriage. I’ll add two recommendations of my own:

Note where expectations should be high:

  1. Romance
  2. Passion
  3. Good treatment
  4. Communication

You want to be head over heels in love with a person of good character. Do not settle for anything less. Brilliant career, great smile, high social status? Nice to have, but not the highest priority.

Focus on what is most important.

Aim to give more than you get.

If both of you do this, you’ll find that your relationship is a bounty of generosity, gratitude and good feelings. The feeling of being in love doesn’t have to end, take it from me. Take delight in thinking up ways to surprise and appreciate your partner. You’ll have more fun together and a lot less conflict. 

What are your expectations for marriage? What’s a “must have?” What’s a bonus?

We have a lot of happily married readers here – what are the things that make your marriage work?