Your decision-making style, such as whether you make a “good enough” choice or seek to make the “best” possible choice among all possible options, influences your satisfaction with your partner, according to a new study in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
In a three-year study of newlyweds, researchers from Florida State University found that maximizing men — those who seek to make the “best” choice — who had attractive wives were more satisfied at the start of their marriages than maximizing men who had less attractive wives, while maximizing women who had high status husbands experienced less steep declines in satisfaction over time than maximizing women who had low status husbands.
“Maximizing people are constantly trying to obtain the very best outcomes in life,” says lead author Juliana French.
“For example, which is the best ice cream flavor? Which is the best song on the radio right now?”
“In the context of romantic relationships, maximizers are those who seek the best possible partner and who, over the course of their relationships, continue to compare their partners to other potential partners,” she continues. “This could lead to overall lower satisfaction in maximizers’ long-term relationships if their partners do not compare favorably to those alternatives on qualities that are important to them.”
For the study, researchers recruited 113 heterosexual newlywed couples in north Texas and 120 newlywed couples in north Florida. The newlyweds completed questionnaires assessing their marital satisfaction, tendencies to maximize when making decisions, and social status. The researchers also obtained photographs of each spouse that they objectively coded for physical attractiveness.
They found that maximizers were more satisfied with their marriages if their partners possessed traits that were desirable to them, for instance, maximizing men were more satisfied if they had attractive wives, and maximizing women were more satisfied if they had high-status husbands.
The study also found that maximizers are more likely to take relationships slower.
“For example, maximizers might take longer to decide to be exclusive with someone, to move in together, to get married, to have children together, and so on,” French says.