Newly-weds know each other best
Published 19/10/2010 | 09:12
Couples who have been married for decades actually know each other less than newly-weds, according to the surprise findings of a piece of research.
Psychologists found that couples who had been together for an average of 40 years knew less about each other than those who had been together for just a year or two.
They believe that is because those at the start of a relationship have more to gain from really trying to get to know their partner, while those in a long-established marriage assume they already know everything.
The researchers asked two sets of couples, one younger and one older, about their partners' preferences in three areas: food, film and kitchen furniture.
They found that the 38 younger couples, aged from 19 to 32, who had been in a relationship for an average of two years and one month, gave more correct answers than 20 older couples, aged from 62 to 78, who had been together for an average of 40 years and 11 months.
In all three subjects, the older couples made more incorrect guesses. The biggest gap in their knowledge was about what food their husbands and wives liked best.
The findings, reported in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, were made by researchers from Switzerland, Germany and the US. The team said the results were not what they had expected.
They said: "We found that older couples on average made worse predictions about their partner's preferences.
"This is surprising because, compared to younger couples, older couples had much more time and opportunities to learn about each other's preferences over the course of their relationship."
The psychologists suggested that younger people were more motivated to understand their partners during the early stages of a relationship.
Sadly, this motivation appeared to fade with the years.
One of the researchers, Dr Benjamin Scheibehenne of the University of Basel, said: "One reason could be that older couples pay less attention to each other, because they view their relationship as already firmly committed or because they think they already know their partner well."
Older couples were also more likely to tell each other "little white lies", such as complimenting a meal they really didn't enjoy, just to avoid conflict, or to make the other person happy, he added.
This tended to reinforce the misplaced belief that they knew each other better than younger couples.
Couples who shared the same tastes and preferences made the best guesses about each other, regardless of age.