The Secret to a Good Marriage? Delusion

At lunch the other day Robin Hanson offered a perceptive comment on marriage and divorce (I paraphrase).

We tend to remember slights and frustrations more than favors and kindnesses.  So inevitably in a marriage the weight of negative remembrances of thing past comes to exceed that of the positive.  Divorce is the result.

The secret to a good marriage, therefore is selective forgetfulness.  Coincidentally some psychologists have recently come to the same conclusion.  The couples who stay together are the delusional ones – the ones who look at their past with rose-colored glasses.

Psychologists believe that what they are observing in couples who endorse these and similar sentiments are strongly selective memories that ignore inevitable negative events over the course of marital history. Maybe a distorted view of your marriage that emphasises the positive and forgets the negative is crucial to accounting for who stays and who flees when it comes to relationship endurance.


A kindred spirit is someone who appears especially to understand us and uniquely share our experiences, probably because they see the world they way we do and are therefore, in important respects, just like us.

Murray’s group measured marital partners’ personalities, values and day to day feelings and compared these to marital satisfaction. Those in the happiest and most stable marriages were those most likely to believe their partners were most like them – that is, "kindred spirits" – even when objective comparison of personality found that the similarity was much more imagined than real.

Meanwhile Bryan over at EconLog offers some useful ideas on how to remember and how to forget.


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