Love & Sex
The honeymoon period is a myth, according to new research which has found that couples are unhappiest in their first year of marriage.
And forget bickering like an old married couple, the study found that the happiest husbands and wives are those who have notched up more than 40 years of wedded bliss.
The research, by Deakin University's Australian Centre on Quality of Life, measured the happiness of 2000 people on a scale of 0 to 100.
The average score for the Australian population is 75 but couples in their first year of marriage score a rating of 73.9 compared with people who have been married for four-plus decades at 79.8.
Lead author Dr Melissa Weinberg was surprised by the findings.
''It's a little unexpected because the perception is that newlywed couples should be the happiest, but in reality that's not the case,'' she said.
Dr Weinberg described the phenomenon as the ''wedding hangover'', or the crash experienced by couples after the big day.
''People imagine their wedding day to be the best day of their lives,'' she said.
''The engagement period is very exciting and it's a much anticipated event. After the big day, all couples are left with is the photos, the video, a pile of bills and the realisation that you have just made that huge life decision for better or worse.''
Relationship counsellor John Aiken agreed, saying it's hard for couples to go from publicly celebrating their love to negotiating whose turn it is to change the toilet roll.
''Often when couples are getting married they set aside some major issues in their relationship to focus on the special day,'' he said.
''They get so swept up in the excitement of the wedding day, it's hard to adjust to the normal humdrum life which follows. It's the post-wedding blues.''
The research found that couples bounce back from post-nuptial depression, with their happiness score increasing to 78.4 in the second year of marriage.
Those who can stay the distance are the happiest of all, with Mr Aiken noting that couples learn how to manage conflict better over time.
''Couples who have been married for a long time learn from experience,'' he said. ''They learn how to resolve issues and find out what works for them and what doesn't. Newlyweds don't have that sort of experience to draw upon.''
The findings, to be released on Monday, found that married people were generally happier than singles, de factos, divorcees or people who were widowed or separated.
Those who had been through a separation were the unhappiest, with a score of 69.2.
Married women were happier than men who had tied the knot, with the survey showing wedded bliss peaks between three and five years of marriage for women and again at the 40-year mark.
- Sydney Morning Herald
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