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March 20, 2018

Can Your Personality Shift After Marriage?

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A new study suggests that our personalities change after marriage. Jess dissects the study findings and makes recommendations based on the data on Global TV’s The Morning Show with Jeff McArthur.

1. How can we measure whether or not personality changes within marriage?

Generally, researchers look at the big 5 personality traits (OCEAN):

  • Openness. Are you open to change, growth and new experiences?
  • Conscientiousness. Are you reliable and do you take the steps necessary (e.g planning and organizing) to ensure that you follow through on your word?
  • Extraversion. Are you highly social and do you derive benefits from interacting with others? (Introverts tend to derive energy and satisfaction from within.)
  • Agreeableness. Do you get along well with others and are you empathetic, understanding, kind and flexible?
  • Neuroticism. Are you emotionally stable and to what degree do you experience positive and negative emotions? We all experience both positive and negative emotions, but neuroticism is often characterized by overwhelming distressing thoughts that are not proportionate to actual circumstances. We all display some degree of neuroticism.

2. What did this study find?

This study included 169 MF couples who answered personality questionnaires at 6, 12, and 18 months into the marriage. The following shifts were observed after 18 months:

Openness — a decrease for both husbands and wives.

Conscientiousness — an increase for husbands; no change for wives. Note: women tend to score higher on conscientiousness overall.

Extraversion — overall decrease for both husbands and wives.

Agreeableness — an overall decrease for both husbands and wives with a more pronounced decline among women (who tend to be more agreeable overall).

Neuroticism — a slight increase in emotional stability for husbands and a more significant increase for wives.

Note: these personality patterns were found among those who married young as well as those who waited until they were older. Similar shifts occurred even as some couples in the study had children.

3. Why might some of these changes occur?

Decrease in Openness — may be related to the routine of a new relationship.

Increase in Conscientiousness — may be related to one partner rubbing off on the other or the need to become more reliable to make the relationship work.

Extraversion Decrease — new couples tend to reduce social ties, which can be costly, as one person cannot fulfill all of your needs.

Agreeableness Decline (especially among women) — women tend to score higher in agreeableness, so this increase at the start of the marriage may be part of a new period of self-assertion.

Neuroticism (increase in emotional stability) — additional evidence that a happy relationship can support emotional health.

4. While some of these changes are positive (e.g. an increase in emotional stability), others seem less desirable. How can a newlywed couple attenuate a potential decrease in openness, agreeableness and/or extroversion?

Openness — it’s important that couples don’t create a bubble where they co-exist only with people just like themselves. Some happy couples can be happy with one another, but unhappy in all other relationships (e.g. with friends, family, co-workers); it’s important to not only engage in new experiences with your partner, but also on your own and with others in order to cultivate an open-minded perspective.

Extraversion – while there is nothing wrong with being an introvert (you do you!), we do know that social ties are important to overall health an well-being, so it’s important that newlyweds don’t cocoon themselves up. Stay in touch with friends and relatives — especially those who played a role in planning and celebrating your wedding.

Agreeableness — we often treat being agreeable as though it’s a universally positive trait, but it’s important to strike a balance between being flexible and also standing your ground.

Jess took to Facebook to further dissect the topic. Watch her Facebook Live video below!

How your personality changes with marriage.

Posted by Dr. Jess Sexologist on Tuesday, March 20, 2018