Mind & Body

This Is How 18 Months of Marriage Changes You, According to a Study

Reality check: Marriage encompasses a whole lot more than just really liking someone. There are the finances, lifestyles, long-term life choices, family decisions, and probably a whole lot more than many realize when they tie the knot. Add another factor to the list: almost immediate changes in personality.

For Better and Worse

Marriage is a major commitment, and just as major are the changes that come along with it. To show just how significantly marriage affects or doesn't affect us, a team of researchers studied the personalities of 169 heterosexual newlywed couples for a little over a year. The team checked in at the six-month mark, at their first anniversary, and at 18 months to see how they were hangin' in there. At these checkpoints, the newlyweds assessed their own levels of the Big Five personality traits: extraversion (how social and outgoing you are), openness to experience (how intellectually curious you are), conscientiousness (how dependable and plan-oriented you are), agreeableness (how cooperative or compassionate you are), and neuroticism (how anxious, depressed, or angry you are).

Love and Marriage ... and a Whole Lot More

According to the study, which was published this month in the journal Developmental Psychology, the changes in the couples over this time period were good, bad, and even a little surprising. You wouldn't think it, but the results were similar no matter who they talked to — they didn't really differ by age, demographics, cohabitation before marriage, initial marital satisfaction, parenthood status, or even how long the couple had been together prior to taking the big leap. Here's what they found after 18 months of research:

On the good side:

  • Husbands became more conscientious; that is, dependable and plan-oriented.
  • Wives became less neurotic; that is, anxious, depressed, and angry.

On the not so good side:

  • Husbands became less extroverted.
  • Both husbands and wives became less agreeable; that is, less compassionate and likely to cooperate.

"I think these findings point to the fact that getting married is an exciting time for couples but is also one that may involve some adjusting to new living arrangements, increased levels of interdependence and in some cases a coming to terms with the fact that the idealized marriage may not be the actual marriage," Justin Lavner, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Georgia, told the Huffington Post. "The patterns of change we observed suggests there's something about the transition to marriage itself rather than other factors, such as getting older or being with your partner for longer. The newlywed period may be marked by even more changes than we had previously thought."

So if you're about to tie the knot, prepare for one more big change in your life. Staying with one person for the rest of your life takes some adjustment, after all — this study just puts numbers to it.

Just married or about to take the leap? Get some practical advice in "The Newlywed's Instruction Manual: Essential Information, Troubleshooting Tips, and Advice for the First Year of Marriage (Owner's and Instruction Manual)" by Caroline Tiger. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase through that link, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Joanie Faletto June 22, 2018

Curiosity uses cookies to improve site performance, for analytics and for advertising. By continuing to use our site, you accept our use of cookies, our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.