The pessimistic partner affects the optimistic partner more than the opposite. Health and science

Where does this news come from?

The newspaper Het Nieuwblad reports on a study that investigated How do couples affect each other? (1). If one indicates that he is happier than the other, the mental health of the person in question will deteriorate in the long term. The most unhappy partner in the relationship may experience a slight increase in happiness thanks to the optimist at his or her side, but often the mood does not improve at all.

What did the research include?

German researchers examined How can the personality of couples develop through living together (2).

  • It is known that there can be significant similarities in mental health between romantic partners. Scientists investigated Whether the comparative level of well-being between partners is characterized by the more or less happy partner.
  • In two studies, they monitored the well-being of German and Dutch couples (21,894 couples) via questionnaires for 37 years (Study 1) and 14 years (Study 2).
  • Over time, and within each couple, the happiest partner experienced the greatest decline in well-being, while the unhappy partner’s well-being changed little or nothing.

Scientists have determined that there is one Negativity bias Found in the joint development of well-being among romantic couples. Negativity bias means that people are more easily affected by negative events than positive events, and they also remember negative events more easily.


(1) Does an optimist become less cheerful when he lives with a pessimist? Study brings clarity. The newspaperDecember 14, 2023.

How should you interpret this news?

Although this study the acting Nature, however the results interesting.

  • It goes without saying that living with a pessimistic person can affect your happiness, but in reality you may expect the opposite. Living with a cheerful person can also boost your mood. So the question is why a happy partner’s well-being seems to be more at risk.
  • Research shows that negativity is more easily transmitted from one person to another through social interactions. Or to put it another way: we are more likely to express negative emotions than pure happiness. Sharing information about stressful or upsetting events can be part of coping with those events. The result is that negative conversations between spouses may occur more often, causing the happier partner to feel less happy over the years.
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a margin In this study, there was no difference between the partner’s negative attitude toward life and the occurrence of events that could affect the couple’s well-being. For example, a partner may lose his or her job, which will clearly affect the couple’s well-being.

distinct It is also that couples who have the same sense of well-being are more stable. Therefore, decreased well-being among the happy partner may be positive for couple stability.


Research shows that the less happy partner in a couple is more likely to negatively influence the happier partner than vice versa. Over time, the happy partner will adopt the other partner’s style of happiness. This may be due to the fact that people express more negative emotions than positive emotions, causing more negative conversations between couples than positive ones.


(2) Stavrova, O., Chopik, W. J. (2023). Don’t drag me down: Valence asymmetry in the joint development of well-being in couples. Social Psychology and Personality Sciences, 0(0).

Megan Vasquez

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