Optimism and Marriage

As we have discussed regularly this semester, advancements in technology and the World Wide Web, have brought us closer together as a global community. This week I want to highlight a current event that has taken hold of millions of people involved in the social sphere of YouTube and Twitter. The YouTube stars, Alli and Charles Trippy are known as the World Record holders for most consecutive vlogs or video blogs. For over five years they recorded the beginning of their relationship, proposal, wedding, two brain surgeries (Charles recently finished his last round of chemotherapy for brain cancer), and announcement of separation. While this couple was popular and adored by their 1 million viewers, they are not the first to separate or divorce, and won’t be the last. As a newlywed myself, I found this weeks themes of relationships and optimism to be especially close to my heart. What helps us maintain close and meaningful relationships in our lives?

Schneider et al. (2012) states that romantic couples who exchange optimism will experience greater success in problem solving than do pessimists. Optimism allows each individual to contribute efficient coping strategies, and higher levels of cooperation. Advanced cooperation means that the individual refrains from name calling, belittling the other, or assigning blame (Assad et al., 2013). In times of struggle and poor health, mates found their partner to be more attractive when they exhibited optimistic behavior (Schneider et al., 2012).

Dr. Ben Karney is a professor of social psychology at UCLA and specializes in the stability of intimate relationships during the early years of marriage. In an article for the American Psychological Association, Dr. Karney notes that individuals who are the happiest overall, have a greater ability of highlighting the most positive attributes of their marriage or relationship (Karney, 2010). Global attributions are conclusions that we perceive as having a wide-ranging influence on our lives (Schneider et al., 2012).  More specifically, Karney suggests that individuals who provide specific examples to support global attributions like “my husband is amazing” will experience more happiness within the relationship. This ability is similar to the topic of problem solving that was shared previously.

Life can be very difficult even for more optimistic individuals. Sometimes we are forced to tackle difficult problems that test our ability to stay optimistic. However, when interacting with the people we love, it is important to practice optimistic behaviors. Resolving problems will become easier when optimistic behaviors of cooperation are practiced. Further, allowing one’s self to support positive global attributions allows for a deeper understanding of that original thought. Marriage and partnerships will continue to face challenges, but a path toward optimism can help many maintain close, meaningful relationships.


Assad, K.K., Donnellan M.B., Conger, R.D., (2013). Optimism: An enduring resource for romantic relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93(2)

Karney, B., (2010). Keeping Marriages Healthy, and Why it’s so Difficult. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2010/02/sci-brief.aspx

Schneider, F.W., Gruman, J.A., & Coutts, L.M., (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems. London: Sage Publications.


  1. Ana Luisa S Taboa

    I like that you focused on a current event for this blog assignment. I was unfamiliar with Alli and Charles Trippy, so than you for including some background information on them so I wouldn’t have to look them up in order to understand what you were talking about – explanations about knowledge that are outside of what we learned in class make for a good post.
    Throughout our lives we encounter many people. What do you think makes certain ones stand out to us? Why do you believe we choose some individuals over others? Why do some relationships work out where others fail? These are questions that many people have attempted to answer for years.
    As children, the relationships that we experience provide opportunities for our further development and affect how we grow as individuals (Furman & Buhrmester, 1985), and that’s the reason why we feel more comfortable criticizing, sharing ideas, clarifying, elaborating, and expressing ourselves to peers than to individuals whom we view to be above us in power (Kruger & Tomasello, 1986). We seek friendships in part because they offer us support and validation in moments of difficulty and need, and often times how close we are in proximity and how often we see an individual play bigger parts on whether a friendship forms than how much a person likes another (Siegler et al, 2006).
    I, for example, am friends with the girl who lives in the house in front of mine. We have a lot of differences on what we consider to be fun and proper, but we have a bit of overlap in interests, and we take that overlap to keep our friendship. We spend time together almost every week, but both of us are very aware that we’re mainly friends out of convenience. Sometimes we want someone to spend time with and we’re close to one another in terms of physical distance. Were we in a high school environment where we saw each other every day but didn’t live so close together, we would had been polite to one another and gotten along, but we would had more likely been acquaintances than friends. In a high school environment, we get to be physically close to a variety of individuals for a long time in the day (especially with extracurricular activities,) and that proximity allows us to take our pick of friends based on interests rather than proximity and convenience.
    You provided some explanations on why certain relationships fail where others don’t, and a key factor truly is optimism, as Schneider stated. In almost every single situation in your life, you’ll see both good and bad, and optimists tend to look at the better side of things. They experience better outcomes in problem-solving, better coping techniques, and are more likely to be able to refrain from harming their partner in times of difficulty (Schneider et al., 2012). As you stated in your post, optimism can help one appear more attractive to their partner in times of sickness, but it can also help individuals heal better (Schneider et al., 2012).
    It’s difficult to keep a marriage going, in my opinion, no matter how compatible you are. Many people assume that you marry and things just automatically get better – all your problems are fixed – or that you’ll marry someone and live a perfect life without having to work on your relationship. The truth is that all relationships need work, but those where you spend the most time with individuals have the most chance for friction and arguments. That’s part of why relationships that kids have with their parents are better after they move out – they spend less time together to argue and annoy one another.
    A married couple can’t just keep away from one another to keep their relationship going, however, so they have to learn how to cope with problems rather than taking an avoidant approach. You mentioned that individuals who are able to and do provide specific examples to support global attribution about their partners feel more happiness in relationships, and that’s a big part in keeping a relationship going. We have a pre-disposition to think that our relationships are great if we chose to be in them. We like to believe that we made the right decisions in our lives in order to lessen any dissonance that we may feel about our choices, so we’ll often look at the good side of our decisions as a defense mechanism (Taylor, 2986). If we keep going with that and remember that out partners are our partners and not our enemies, we can keep them in a bright light where we notice what we love about them as opposed to what annoys us. Perception is a key player in keeping relationships going.
    You mentioned that life can be difficult even for the optimist, and I agree. My question is this – many of us have a predisposition not toward optimism, but toward pessimism. What strategies do you have for helping individuals who are pessimists or cynics make the most from their relationships other than practicing optimistic behaviors?
    Thank you for your post.
    Ana Luisa

    Furman, W., & Buhrmester, D. (1985). Children’s perceptions of the personal relationships ine their social networks. Developmental Psychology, 21, 1016-1024.
    Kruger A.C., & Tomasello, M. (1986). Transactive discussions with peers and adults. Developmental Psychology, 22, 681-685.
    Schneider, F.W., Gruman, J.A., & Coutts, L.M., (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems. London: Sage Publications.
    Siegler, R. S., DeLoache, J. S., & Eisenberg, N. (2006). How children develop (2nd ed.). New York: Worth Publishers.
    Taylor, S. E., & Taylor, S. E. (1986).Health psychology. New York: Random House.

  2. Jamie Lynne Wilson

    I think this topic regarding the challenges couples face is one that most people can relate to, whether or not they are currently coupled. Today, it is all too common to learn that a couple we once thought had it all is splitting. One of the problems, in my opinion, is that couples are given fairytale ideals of relationships and have no real way to develop realistic relationship views. For example, all couples fight and argue, but it is in how we handle those arguments that the stability of our relationships are defined. If couples were given the proper resources to learn how to fight instead of how to avoid arguments, it is likely that more couples would stand the test of time.
    An intervention technique that I find to be especially helpful is that of non-verbal cues. In relationships, it is easy to misunderstand the request made of a partner and to take small criticisms to heart. Instead of descending into the nagging pattern of making constant criticisms to obtain the love or attention they desire, I suggest taking a different approach. I believe it would be interesting to study a pool of couples after they had been given instructions in how to use non-verbal cues in lieu of criticism to obtain the attention they seek. For example, couples may be taught to tug on their partner’s ring finger gently if they are feeling insecure and don’t want to verbalize their worries. Surveying these couples regarding their relationship quality and satisfaction before completing non-verbal training and six months after the training would help to determine whether this method contributes to healthier relationships.
    What the world needs is stronger relationships and consequently, stronger families that in turn produce stronger, emotionally healthier adults. Small changes that are well enforced now may well produce long-lasting effects that may still be enjoyed later.

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