Transition novelty moderates daters' cortisol responses when talking about marriage


  • Timothy J. Loving and Mark T. Pope, Department of Human Development and Family Sciences, The University of Texas at Austin; Marci E. J. Gleason, Karmanos Cancer Institute, Communication and Behavioral Oncology, Wayne State University.

  • Marci E. J. Gleason is now at Department of Human Development and Family Sciences, The University of Texas at Austin.

  • Portions of this research were presented at the biannual meeting of the International Association for Relationship Research in Crete, Greece and the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in San Francisco, CA. We thank Kate Sullivan, Elizabeth Schoenfeld, Ashley Smith, Lindsey Fivecoat, Shannon Parker, Amberly Orr, and Joni Landau for their assistance with data collection.

Timothy J. Loving, The University of Texas at Austin, Department of Human Development and Family Sciences, 1 University Station, Box A2700, Austin, TX 78712, e-mail:


Nonmarital couples' salivary cortisol responses during a likelihood of marriage discussion were assessed. Sixty-eight couple members (34 couples) in the United States independently indicated the extent to which they had experience thinking about and talking about marriage to their current partners (i.e., marriage novelty). Couples subsequently jointly graphed their chance of marriage to each other over the course of their relationship histories. Increased levels of marriage novelty predicted heightened cortisol reactivity to the joint discussion relative to cortisol responses of couple members for whom the idea of marriage was less novel. These results highlight the impact simply discussing transitions can have on individuals' physiological responses, and add to the expanding literature concerning the link between nonmarital romances and biological outcomes.