Happily Ever After endings need not be limited to only fairy tales. There are a few known and controllable factors that affects the satisfaction a couple feels about their marriage.
Personality traits and life satisfaction
Research has shown many couples experience a happiness spike around their engagement. In the year leading up to a wedding, most see an overall increase in life satisfaction, which continues through the Big Day and into the first year of marriage.
On average, however, this boost is limited—after “I do,” happiness levels start to decline back to pre-marriage levels, sometimes dropping below those of individuals who have never married. But some lucky lovebirds don’t experience this drop after the first year of marriage. Instead, their life satisfaction level stays high, and their marriages tend to last.
To study these potential correlations, the researchers examined data from 2,015 individuals, collected as part of the German Socio-Economic Panel study—a large, longitudinal study of German households. Every year, from 2005 to 2012, researchers recorded participants’ marital status, life satisfaction levels, and personality traits using the Big Five scale that separates people’s personalities by agreeableness, extraversion, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness.
In the study, the women’s life satisfaction then increased in the year leading up to marriage—and slowly declined as the married years went on. The researchers saw a similar trend with the men, except their life satisfaction levels declined more quickly after marriage than the women’s levels. 😱
When the researchers dug into the data, they noticed a correlation between specific personality traits and happiness levels after marriage. When it came to women, female participants who scored high on the conscientiousness scale (meaning: they consider themselves more thorough, careful, and vigilant in life) or low on the extraversion scale (meaning: they consider themselves introverted) were more likely to “sustain” the life satisfaction benefits following marriage.
Personality traits and marriage satisfaction
Other studies have attempted to establish the relationship between personality traits and the cause of mental divorce (the opposite of marital satisfaction). A recurrent finding to emerge from these studies has been that neuroticism appears particularly problematic to relationship satisfaction and marital stability. Openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness are generally, but inconsistently, associated with marital satisfaction.
Pre-marital and married couples can find out where they stand in relation to the five personality traits by taking the Customized Version of PREPARE/ENRICH, of which I am an accredited facilitator.
While a high neuroticism is related to poor marital satisfaction, that it may result in divorce is only deduced. Divorce can be avoided when couples take seek help from qualified and experienced people early. Couples with this kind of personality can learn strategies to manage and mitigate the effect of these personality. These strategies are covered during the Marriage Mentoring sessions that I conduct.
Contact me for a Marriage Mentoring Package that includes the Prepare-Enrich inventory and 3 mentoring sessions.
Personality traits and mantel satisfaction within enduring relationships: An intra-couple discrepancy approach. Amy Claxton et. al. Journal of social and Personal Relationships.
Personality traits and mental divorce. Seddighe Fani et. al.