Idealization – Part 1

There is a batch of research dedicated to learning about idealizing one’s spouse.  Marital aggrandizement is another term used to describe how one will selectively recall only positive memories of their past relationship and can also be the perception of a negative event as a positive rather than damaging. This serves to support the continuity of the relationship. The example they gave was infidelity in the marriage is looked at as a driving force of growth within the relationship.

We further assume that marital aggrandizement does not entail psychopathology but serves an adaptive function (O’Rourke et al., 1996).”

 Under the topic of Using Your Relationship to Heal and subheading Healthy Romanticizing, the book I am reading says this:

Sometimes looking at our partners through the slightly tinted rose-colored glasses can be a predictor of long-term success.  Psychologists at the University of Texas in Austin have spent a decade following 168 couples who were married in 1981.  They are finding that idealization of a kind can help people stay happily married. ‘Usually, this is a matter of one person putting a good spin on the partner, see the partner as more responsive than he or she really is,’ said Ted Huston, the study’s lead investigator. ‘People who do that tend to stay in relationships longer than those who can’t or don’t (Carey 2005).

In another study, psychologists at the State University of New York at Buffalo followed a group of 121 dating couples.  The couples answered questionnaires designed to determine how much they idealized their partner and how well the pair was doing every few months.  ‘The researchers found that the couples who were closest one year later were those who idealized each other the most.  The idealizing seemed to help carry these couples though the inevitable rough spots. “Intimates who idealized one another’ concluded the researchers, ‘appeared more prescient than blind, actually creating the relationships they wished for as romances progressed’ (Carey 2005)

The amount of idealization and marital aggrandizement in a relationship were measures of marital happiness over time, and also dating couples were included in the book.  I really had a hard time with this… Idealization to me seems like you are lying to yourself about your partner.  Is that really a good thing?  Does it not set up expectations that may cause a lot of disappointment in the long run?  It’s a lot to think about.  I try to see things for what they are and right now I am so focused on looking atmy marriage and myself honestly in order to change for the better.   How can I change or make things better if I don’t see them for what they are?  Perhaps I am taking it too far and mild idealization what really what can be good for us.  Taking a trait or behavior that isn’t necessarily a problem and seeing it as better than it really is in reality.  I think the researchers were alluding to the self-fulfilling prophesy.  If you expect your relationship to go a certain way (for ex. Brad and I am going to continue growing and improving our marriage together and we will not go backwards) then your positive expectations can drive the belief to happen.  I can see how that would work. 

I am so not good at this, being positive.  I tend to be negative at the slightest opportunity and I am really trying to stop doing that.  I want to be able to give the benefit of the doubt instead of automatically assuming something is going wrong. I have to believe I can change that.  There was a window of time when we first started with spanking and trying DD where everything seemed perfect.  I didn’t think much about how long it would last, but just enjoyed it, and I do believe there was some idealizing going on between the two of us.  When we returned back from Everything is Perfect World, the real work began.  I have slipped back into some old patterns, one’s that can’t exist peacefully in a DD dynamic. That is a good thing though because it is forcing me to make positive changes, forcing me to see the issues, that for the first time I can see more clearly and they actually feel manageable, changeable, and I have hope.  As I said in the last post, writing for my blog has been instrumental in this and I believe has prepared me .  So has reading everyone else’s blogs, I have gained a lot from you all.

 The “marital aggrandizement” was a second thought for this post but I wanted to talk about it because I had already been thinking about the past 11 or so years Brad and I have been together.  I was trying to remember what it felt like when we were dating, how I saw him and our relationship.  How that has changed and shifted over the years.  I won’t go into detail but what is interesting was I had a hard time coming up the details of the really tough times.  And from what I could remember, it makes me smile and think about how silly we were to be arguing about those things.  I see them as stepping stones to how we have gotten to the place we are now.  This is exactly what O’Rourke was talking about. I suppose whether it really was or not does not matter now.    So is it psychopathology or adaptive?  Does it matter if we remember events in a different light?  Does it matter if we idealize our spouse or partner if it improves the relationship? Previously I would have said you should not, but now I’m thinking it might just be a good thing.  I love for you to tell me what you think –


For part two I’d like to talk about how all this might relate specifically to D/s, M/s, and DD relationships.


4 thoughts on “Idealization – Part 1

  1. Mick says:

    Hmm, marriage aggrandizement sounds well, pretty grand :). Actually, it seems like a rather extreme term. I can’t see anything wrong with putting the best spin on the events involving a couple. And it doesn’t seem a bad thing to filter out the unpleasant aspect of our memories–I’ve always thought those were good things. It’s all there, nothign has been blocked, just contextualized.

    Not that I always practice those things. I have been known to be a bit negative myself.

    I think a more important aspect is one’s motivation. Am I looking at both the good and the bad with the intent on making things better? Sounds good to me.

    Can I expect things to get better? it seems to me that the people who are the most successful in their endeavors are those who can envision a positive outcome.

  2. Katia says:

    I will say that I don’t necessarily, “idolize” my spouse, but he is my hero. We have an amazing relationship. He is my best friend, and I couldn’t imagine life with out him. For us, even during those dark or hard times, we always mananged to find contentment, even in the little things.
    He is getting ready to leave for a very long business trip. I told him last night, it would be easier if I hated him a little. 🙂

  3. Ally says:

    Katia – I can relate to your last statement, I hate when one of us is away. It sounds like you guys have a fantastic relationship.

  4. Sara says:

    Ally, I really do think idolization is a positive thing in a marriage. Idolization is not self deception, though. Missing signals, and lying to yourself is not the same thing as choosing to see him in a positive light. Rather, it is deciding to focus on his strengths rather than his weaknesses. It is choosing to see the glass full rather than half empty, but you DO see the glass just as it is!. I have lived in a marriage with the same man, and when my perspective was different, the marriage became entirely different. One’s perspective is huge, I think, and I agree with you that much of one’s perspective is a matter choice.

    It is a decision you have to make on which angle you will look from, and that might have to do with whether you choose to stay self protecting within the marriage or to trust that he will not betray or hurt you if you let your guard down. If you think he may one day cheat or hugely fail you, I wouldn’t do it. Some men do not describe to be trusted. On the other hand, I suspect that is not your B. Then, it is about learning to trust, and facing your inner demons, whatever your may be. And we all do have them. The deeper we are asked to trust, the scarier this becomes. We peel layers of the onion to learn ourselves and be able to come closer to our partners. That has been my experience…a true journey, and not one for the feint of heart!

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