1 Personality Trait Predicts Happy Marriage Over 40+ Years

One personality trait emerged as the most important for satisfaction across 40+ years of marriage.

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One personality trait emerged as the most important for satisfaction across 40+ years of marriage.

People with very stable emotions tend to have the best marriages, research finds.

Stable emotions reflect low levels of the personality trait of neuroticism.

Emotionally stable people (those low in neuroticism) tend not to criticise their partners, behave defensively or be contemptuous of them.

In married couples, having an extraverted, outgoing partner is also linked to higher satisfaction.

In addition, both high agreeableness and high conscientiousness are linked to relationship satisfaction in dating couples.

But it is having a partner that is co-operative and responsible that is the key, not necessarily being that way yourself.

Neuroticism, though, has the greatest effect of all personality traits on how satisfied couples are with their relationship.

People with high levels of neuroticism are more likely to get divorced.

To see how beneficial these traits are imagine for a moment the reverse of someone who is stable, agreeable and responsible.

Being neurotic, along with dis-agreeable and irresponsible is known as the ‘lack-of-self-control’ cluster of personality traits.

It is not hard to see why this set of three personality traits — that are linked to psychopathology and substance abuse — might not make for the best marriage.

The conclusions come from a study that surveyed 136 dating couples and 74 married couples.

They were asked about both their own and their partner’s personality as well as their satisfaction with their marriage.

The personality trait of neuroticism — one of the five major aspects of personality — emerged as most important, just as it has over decades of research.

The study’s authors describe one early piece of research that…

“…studied 278 couples from the mid-1930s through the early 1980s.

[…]

Analyses indicated that respondents who initially were high on neuroticism were more likely to become divorced over the course of the study.

[…]

Neuroticism scores showed significant predictive power across time spans of more than 40 years.”

The study was published in the Journal of Personality (Watson et al., 2001).


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This site is all about scientific research into how the mind works.

It’s mostly written by psychologist and author, Dr Jeremy Dean.

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Author: Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book "Making Habits, Breaking Habits" (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks.