Each relationship is different, but researchers have found there could be one unlikely sign capable of predicting divorce – and it affects the couples that are overly-affectionate in their first few years of marriage.
The study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, followed 168 couples for 13 years to discover what signals predict divorce and what signs indicate a healthy long-lasting marriage.
According to the study, evidence shows that couples who are overly-affectionate from the beginning, meaning they display more than understandable levels of affection towards each other, are more likely to divorce.
“As newlyweds, the couples who divorced after seven or more years were almost giddily affectionate, displaying about one-third more affection than did spouses who were later happily married,” the authors wrote.
But is too much affection always a bad thing? We asked dating and relationship experts their thoughts.
“Some people get caught up in the infatuation of a relationship, hence the term ‘love is blind,’ and it is known that infatuation is not a long-lasting state. Once that disappears, one has to look at what is left between the two people, and if there is no bond other than passion, then the relationship is likely to fall apart,” she said. “There is also the danger of falling in love with an aspect of someone, knowing that it’s not long-lasting or sustainable but hoping that things will change. For example, a couple gets together in a partying environment, but when kids come along, one person does not intend to give up the party lifestyle.”
Susan Winter, New York City relationship expert and bestselling author, agreed.
“Over-the-top emotions (and their physical expression) are hard to sustain. This type of behaviour is most commonly found in the honeymoon period, which is a short-lived phase from three to nine months,” Winter told us.
“Life and life’s challenges can get real very quickly,” according to Winter. “That’s when you’ll see each partner’s true personality emerge. The person you thought you married has vanished and discontentment occurs.”
It is this disillusionment that ultimately leads towards divorce – the “decline in overt affection, a lessening of the conviction that one’s spouse is responsive, and an increase in ambivalence,” according to the study authors.
But there are always exceptions to the rule – for example, on your wedding day.
Mason Roantree said: “You would think on their wedding day a couple would display a lot of affection. In general, I think displaying and being affectionate towards one another is a good sign.”
And affection towards your spouse is not always a bad sign – it is only when the strength of the feelings errs on unhealthy.
“There is a difference in being so much into one another that the surroundings and social context are ignored versus a couple generally being ‘touchy-feely’ towards each other,” Mason Roantree said. “The former is likely to be unhealthy, the latter is fine.”
Alternatively, couples who fought from the beginning and did not display affection also indicated an increased likelihood of divorce, according to the study – with those couples divorcing within two years.
“Also, couples get into a routine. Being together becomes a habit, rather than an ongoing adventure of discovery. It’s easy to become complacent. This is where we quit adding value to the relationship and begin to take our partner for granted – two key factors that lead to divorce,” Winter said.
For a marriage to be successful, a steady and unwavering affection towards one another is important to establish a “stable marital bond,” according to the study authors.