Portland Marriage Counselor: Is It Good to Idealize Your Partner?

July 16, 2014 by

How often do we hear the advice to not hold out for Mr. Perfect, or for the Girl of Your Dreams? Such idealizations are often seen as immature, foolish, and even damaging to any otherwise happy relationship. After all, life is not a fairy tale. Why should anyone expect a Prince Charming or Perfect Princess? Who could ever live up to such a standard?

Common sense is not the only thing supporting such advice; some academic studies have supported it as well. Consider the 13-year study at the University of Texas Austin, which determined that couples who had a longer courtship and were more keenly aware of their partner’s flaws were more likely to have a happy, successful marriage. This study also found that those couples who engaged in a passionate, Hollywood-style romance that led to an early wedding often found themselves headed towards an early divorce.

So it’s best to take off those puppy love lenses and not idealize one’s partner, right? Actually, recent findings show there may be something to a more romantic, optimistic view.

Can Idealizing Your Partner Make You Feel More Satisfied?

A new study in Psychological Science is not only at odds with common wisdom, but also previous studies like the one described above. In this most recent study, 193 newlywed couples were monitored for three years in an attempt to measure how their own idealization of their partner impacted their marital happiness. Surprisingly, those that idealized their partner actually reported less of a steep decline in relationship satisfaction. In fact, those that idealized their partners the most say they had absolutely no decline whatsoever.

So why were these idealizing couples so happy, while other couples who do the same seem destined for divorce? It turns out, the secret to a happy marriage may not be to avoid idealizing one’s partner, but instead, to idealize them in the right way.

Not Perfect – But Perfect for You

The difference lies in not glossing over your partner’s flaws or turning a blind eye towards any problems or issues you may have. Instead, the healthiest way to view your partner is to love and idealize them for who they are – flaws and problems included.

The happiest couples were those who changed their ideals to meet their current partner – not settling, but also not harboring an unrealistic expectation of a Prince or Princess Charming with no baggage or bad habits. Cinderella can forget to take out the garbage; Prince Charming may never put his shoes away. It doesn’t stop them from knowing that they are the absolute perfect partners for each other.

The trick is not finding Mr. or Ms. Perfect; it’s finding Mr. or Ms. Perfect – for you. After all, everyone deserves a love as beautifully imperfectly perfect as they are. If finding perfection in your partner’s imperfections sounds tricky, a Portland marriage counselor can help.