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Keywords:

  • communication;
  • divorce;
  • gender;
  • longitudinal;
  • marital satisfaction;
  • marriage and close relationships

Although marital satisfaction starts high and declines for the average newlywed, some spouses may follow qualitatively distinct trajectories. Using 8 self-reports of satisfaction collected over 4 years from 464 newlywed spouses, we identified 5 trajectory groups, including patterns defined by high intercepts and no declines in satisfaction, moderate intercepts and minimal declines, and low intercepts and substantial declines. The groups varied systematically in their 4- and 10-year divorce rates, and wives tended to follow more satisfying trajectories than their husbands. Personality traits, stress, aggression, and communication behaviors assessed shortly after marriage discriminated among groups in expected directions. We conclude by outlining theoretical and practical implications of identifying distinct and predictable patterns of change in relationship satisfaction.