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My partner is the only person with whom I could have a happy relationship: Exploring Unrealistic Expectations

It may be no surprise that seriously dating and engaged couples are more prone to “agree” or “strongly agree” with statements such as “We are as happy as any couple could possibly be!”. Almost intoxicated by love, engaged couples are often known for being infatuated with one another. They tend to be confident that they’ll never have problems or that existing problems will just fade away with time, they’ll never question their love, never experience a drop in romance, and already know everything there is to know about their partner. They truly are love struck.

Unrealistic Expectations: Findings and Couple Types 

In reviewing data from a sample of 15,000 couples who have taken PREPARE-ENRICH, scoring revealed that marital couples often have lower scores in the Marriage Expectations, with an average score on Marriage Expectations at 35%. In other words, the average couple expresses healthy agreement on just 3 or 4 items out of 10. In the case of Marriage Expectations, healthy agreement often means both partners need to disagree with a naïve or unrealistic notion. The data demonstrates that it is common and perhaps even normal to be oblivious to the natural challenges and difficulties that accompany marriage.

It may be the norm for engaged couples to be love-struck, embracing romanticised notions regarding love and marriage or perhaps it may just be that humans are designed to function at a physiological level. Don’t sound the alarms or be overly critical but understand that couples may need to be more realistic about what they should expect from their relationship.

Marriage Expectations is a challenging, yet fun area of discussion for premarital couples, however whilst these couples often have a lot to discuss as they prepare for marriage, healthy dialogue about expectations is critical. The key question for exploration for engaged couples is:

  • “My partner is the only person with whom I could have a happy marriage.”

Source: Peter Larson, Ph.D. 

References: Olson, D. H. (2004). PREPARE/ENRICH Counselor’s Manual. Minneapolis: Life Innovations.

Slater, L. (2006). True Love. National Geographic. February, 32-49.

Source: The Couple Checkup: Find Your Relationship Strengths. By David Olson Ph.D

By Shane Smith, Director PREPARE-ENRICH, Relationship Educator and MediatorPresident, Marriage and Relationship Educators Association of Australia

Read on for various resources to assist you at this time. Finally, please let us know how you are going in these challenging times. 

For more information on the virus and the steps that can be taken to minimise its impact, visit the Australian Government Department of Health website.

Marriage and Relationship Education is a learning opportunity, much like you would do in any other important life event. Check out the video for couples on YouTube:

Tune in next week for more discussion about relationships and mental health. 

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