Gut feelings may predict marriage success

It’s not the situation but the gut feelings that decide the fate of a marriage, researchers say.

According to researchers, all newlyweds have a subconscious response about their spouse. These positive or negative gut feelings, psychologists say, may predict marital satisfaction later in life.

To get to these results, the researchers at the Florida State University interviewed 135 ‘just-married’ couples.

The participants were required to fill in a questionnaire detailing their marital satisfaction.

As expected, all participants had a positive outlook.

The researchers also gauged the marital strength of the couples by showing them pictures of their spouses.

The time span for which the participants viewed the photo was just long enough to recognize the person in the picture without being able to study the picture completely. This aids researchers to pick up the ‘automatic attitudes’, the first unfiltered reactions towards a person.

Upon seeing each picture, the participants were required to speak a positive or negative adjective describing the picture

Four years after marriage, the researchers re-evaluated the feelings of the participants about the marriage. The participants were required to fill in the same questionnaire this time too.

Surprisingly, this time around, participants were more likely to have their response matched to the initial automatic attitudes.

During the 4 year follow-up span 12 couples divorced.

Researchers also found that couples who had a positive feeling about each other were slow on processing negative words, strengthening their marital bond further.

“Everyone wants to believe they are in a good relationship and people can convince themselves that they are – but these gut-level reactions are more indicative of how people feel immediately about their relationships,” study’s lead researcher, Prof James McNulty from Florida State University said.

Although the test would have higher worth had it been able to offer relationship insights before tying the knot, but going by gut reactions can be a good idea, McNulty said.

“I think the best advice would be to attend to your gut level responses about how you think about seeing your partner. I don’t think that should be the only factor people should consider, but it should be one of them.”

The findings of the study feature in the journal Science.