Research Says You Need Denial to Make Your Marriage Work

We’ve all heard the joke that a little denial never hurt anybody, but most of us don’t really believe that. However, according to an article on and reposted to this week, new research shows that in order to make your marriage work, you really do have to have a little bit of denial.

Author Megan Gannon discusses research by Eli J. Finkel, a Northwestern University professor of psychology, that seems to indicate that denial is necessary in order to make marriage work.

The research shows that trust can change our memories in a good way, making us see a spouse’s mistakes or betrayals seem less hurtful. By the same token, a lack of trust makes memories of a partner’s betrayal grow worse as time goes by.

One of the ways that trust is so good for relationships is that it makes us partly delusional,” said Finkel.

He and his colleagues conducted a few different experiments to see how students viewed their partner’s bad behavior or hurtful transgressions.


In one of the experiments, students reported in every two weeks with written notes on everything their partners had done to upset them and rated their hurt feelings and anger on a scale. Later on, students were told to read over and remember the hurtful things and were asked how much of a betrayal they thought each item. At the end of the study, it was clear that students who reported having a lot of trust for their mate didn’t think the partner’s mistakes were so bad, while students who didn’t trust their mates felt the betrayal even more strongly two weeks later.

The research team admits that the experiments were only done with young people at the university, but they say that the results would work out about the same for older, married couples.

The tension between self-protection and relationship-promotion exists throughout the time-course of a close relationship. Given that trust varies among both older and younger people, it seems likely that high levels of trust should foster relationship-promoting memory distortions in a broad range of people.”

Obviously, you have to have trust first to get the benefits of this denial, but if your gut tells you to let something go, maybe you should give in. Apparently, a little denial will do you some good.

One Response to Research Says You Need Denial to Make Your Marriage Work

  1. Cathy Lorient March 26, 2013 at 3:20 am #

    Do you agree that a little denial will do something good for your marriage? I would love to hear your thoughts. Post them below.

    – Cathy Lorient

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