The honeymoon effect: does it exist and can it be predicted?

Prev Sci. 2015 May;16(4):550-9. doi: 10.1007/s11121-014-0480-4.


The population-level decrease over time in newlyweds' marital satisfaction is well established. Yet decreasing marital satisfaction does not occur for all spouses to the same extent, if at all. In the present article, we test for the presence and predictability of a "honeymoon effect"-initially high, but rapidly decreasing, marital satisfaction in newlywed couples. Community couples (N = 395) were studied from 1 month prior through 2.5 years after marriage. A supermajority of couples showed initially high marital satisfaction that either slowly decreased (women: 86 %) or remained steady (men: 78 %). Smaller groups of men and women showed initially high (men) and moderately high (women), rapidly decreasing marital satisfaction or steady, low levels of marital satisfaction. Membership in these latter less optimal, classes was most consistently predicted by spouses' own intimate partner violence (IPV) and depression, as well as by their partners' marital satisfaction, IPV, and depression. The findings suggest that men at risk for the honeymoon effect (~14 %) can be identified for selective prevention based on such predictors. Women at risk for decreasing marital satisfaction (~10 %) can also be identified based on risk factors, but may also exhibit somewhat attenuated marital satisfaction at engagement.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aggression
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Marriage / psychology*
  • New York / epidemiology
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Risk Factors
  • Spouses / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data