The latest piece of evidence for this theory comes from a report by University of Texas at Austin researchers Courtney Walsh, Lisa Neff, and Marci Gleason. Published in the Journal of Family Psychology, the study examined the links between recently married couples’ shared positive experiences, negative behaviors, and marital satisfaction. The 171 participating couples recruited into the study were all in their first marriage, had been married less than six months, and had no children at the time the study began. Their relationship experiences and happiness were measured over a three-year period in a series of three 14-day daily surveys.
The results largely echoed earlier work and mirrored the researchers’ expectations:
individuals who generally reported accumulating more emotional capital over each diary period exhibited lower reactivity to their partner’s daily negative behaviors compared with individuals who generally reported accumulating less emotional capital within the relationship.
That is, the daily marital satisfaction of people who regularly enjoyed more positive exchanges with their spouses—building up “emotional capital”—was less vulnerable to negative experiences. Your spouse’s occasional impatience and criticism hurt your day-to-day marital happiness less if the two of you have emotional reserves to fall back on.
The key word in that last sentence is “occasional.” According to other scholars, pleasant interactions vastly outnumber negative ones in successful marriages.
Read it all from the Institute for Family Studies.