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Gut Feelings Predict Marital Bliss

Gut Feelings Predict Marital Bliss

You're in the midst of wedding planning, and suddenly get a bad feeling about your upcoming nuptials. While some would say it's just cold feet and nothing to worry about, research suggests you should trust your gut.

Jim McNulty, a professor of psychology at Florida State University, and his team followed 135 newlywed couples over the course of four years. Every six months, the researchers measured the couples' conscious attitudes towards their marriage by asking them to rate the relationship with terms like "good," "satisfying," "bad" or "dissatisfied.”

The study, published in the Nov. 29 issue of the journal Science, also measured the couples' semi-conscious (“gut”) feelings about their partner by flashing positive or negative words on a computer screen. The participants then had to hit assigned keys to denote whether the word was positive or negative. Right before the words would flash across the screen, a picture of their partner would appear for a third of a second. If someone felt positive about their partner, they would be quicker to hit the positive key and slower to hit the negative key.

Have you lost that lovin' feeling?

The result: People who showed less positive gut feelings about their partner in the second part of the experiment were less happy in their relationship later on—even if they said they were happy initially.

While you can’t do the experiment yourself to measure your semi-conscious attitude, the study's results suggest that you should listen to your gut and address any problems before those issues start to affect the relationship.

Do you have a nagging feeling your relationship is in trouble? Talk to a therapist specializing in couples counseling to get help before it is too late.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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