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Why Honesty Is Not Always The Best Policy If You Want A Happy Marriage

If you’re the kind of guy who responds to the question, “Does this dress/sweater/hat make me look fat?” with “Of course not honey,” congratulations: you’re a master of common sense. Even better, according to a study in the journal Psychological Science, a willingness to delude yourself about your partner’s imperfections is one of the keys to a long, happy relationship.

Researchers set out to examine how unrealistic perceptions affected both parties in a marriage. They followed 222 couples (all without children because, seriously, let’s not complicate things) for 3 years and surveyed each person about behavior traits like honesty, kindness, and argumentativeness in their partner, themselves, and an ideal mate. While the researchers found that overall satisfaction for all couples declined over time, when a partner’s perception of their spouse was more glowing than that spouse’s own assessment — and more closely aligned with their own ideal — the couples were happier overall. For the realists, happiness pretty much tanked.

Chart of Time vs Satisfaction in MarriagesDeclines in Satisfaction as a Function of Initial Unrealistic Idealization

So, the next time she asks if she looks fat in that dress/sweater/hat, don’t just say, “No.” Go with something like, “If by ‘fat’ you mean ‘So hot you should probably just take it off right now.'” When it comes to insulating your marriage against the corrosive effects of time and an expanding waistline (yours and hers, Captain DadBod), a little self delusion goes a long way.

[H/T] New York Magazine