Do you experience a secret, festering resentment at the mere sight of your spouse, but feel like you should keep it under wraps? After all, it’ll probably get better with time, right? Nope, sorry. Science shows that your gut reactions are probably right.
A new study published in Science suggests that newlyweds’ unacknowledged gut instincts about their spouses are effective predictors of marital satisfaction in years to come. The Washington Post explains that researchers at Florida State University had 135 heterosexual couples married for fewer than six months fill out a questionnaire about marital satisfaction. Predictably, their conscious responses were initially optimistic, yet their “automatic attitude” toward their partners was often less rosy.
To test newlyweds’ gut instincts toward their spouses, scientists flashed photos of their partners followed by an adjective like “awesome,” “terrific,” or “awful.” Participants were asked to indicate on a keyboard whether the word was positive or negative. Because seeing a photo quickly causes the brain to automatically retrieve any associations to the image, scientists believe that the speed of response indicates a person’s automatic attitude; people with positive feelings toward their spouse are quicker to identify positive adjectives, and slower when identifying negative ones. Though these knee-jerk reactions often opposed the couples’ initial conscious thoughts about their partners, researchers found that as time passed, couples’ reported marital happiness tended to match their initial automatic attitudes.
Fortunately, the latest developments in the world of dating apps make it easier than ever to follow your gut.