Impression management is given more attention during courtship in an effort to secure a future desirable spouse. Potential partners showcase their attractive traits and seem more concerned with living up to the idealistic standard of their future spouse. Due to all the drama surrounding the developing relationship, individuals inevitably hold an unrealistic image of their partner (a.k.a. positive strivings). During this phase, individuals are more inclined to dismiss information that could potentially threaten their growing feelings of love and commitment. The real-life drama begins when the couple gets married and becomes increasingly interdependent on each other. During this time, the concern with impression management withers and the individuals face the real partner with their previously hidden self. The relationship issues that were dismissed earlier, now surface with a greater intensity.
Two models could explain how romantic relationships develop and deteriorate. The disillusionment model holds that, during marriage, the positive illusions about the partner begin to disperse and disillusionment begins to set in the relationship. During marriage, contrary to the courtship period, the mindset of disregarding the partner’s or the relationship’s shortcomings diminishes. Therefore, when incompatibilities arise during marriage, partners either accept those differences or let them remain unresolved till the relationship ends.
The perpetual model suggests that couples behave similarly before and after marriage and that partners are fully aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. In this case, the relationship problems that first surfaced during courtship continue their path into the marriage. These chronic problems eventually erode the couple’s love and jeopardize their marriage. Longitudinal studies indicate that relationship satisfaction declines during the first 10 years of marriage and the sharpest decline is noted during the first two years of marriage. In some couples, this decline may even begin during their courtship period.
It is important to know that a perfect romantic partner does not exist. Faking to be a perfect partner may have adverse consequences after marriage.
Take home message: Donot fake to be an ideal partner nor look for one.
For Further Reading
Abbasi, I. S. (2017). Personality and marital relationships: Developing a satisfactory relationship with an imperfect partner. Contemporary Family Therapy: An International Journal, 39(3), 184-194.
Huston, T. L., & Houts, R. M. (1998). The psychological infrastructure of courtship and marriage: The role of personality and compatibility in romantic relationships. In T. N. Bradbury (Ed.), The developmental course of marital dysfunction (pp. 114–151). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kayser, K., & Rao, S. S. (2006). Process of disaffection in relation- ship breakdown. In M. A. Fine & J. H. Harvey (Eds.), Handbook of divorce and relationship dissolution (pp. 201–221). New Jersey, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum