Excerpt “How to Idealize Your Spouse (Without Being a Fool)”
As it turns out, the answer lies in the way that the newlyweds in the study idealized their partners. Through clever data analyses, the researchers were able to conclude that the protective effect of partner idealization comes not from simply seeing one’s partner more positively — that is, being blind to the negative qualities of one’s spouse. Rather, the idealization process consists of bringing your image of the ideal partner closer to how you see your spouse, with warts and all.
This is a critical difference. Rather than saying, “She’s perfect,” protective idealization is more accurately described as people saying, “She’s not perfect, but she’s perfect for me.” In other words, idealization that can reconcile a partner’s imperfections seems to have protective effects for long-term relationships.
Believing that your partner is not necessarily perfect, only perfect for you, seems to help relationships for several reasons. It prevents us from seeing our partners in unrealistically positive terms, and may set the stage for forgiveness or compassion in the face of a partner’s less endearing qualities.
Idealization may also lead to a greater willingness to support one’s partner (see this related post on support-giving) and to be less critical of them — factors that have been shown in other research to promote relationship health.
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