Courtship Progression Rate and Declines in Expressed Affection Early in Marriage: A Test of the Disillusionment Model

Sylvia Niehuis, Alan Reifman, Du Feng, Ted L. Huston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations


According to the disillusionment model, dating partners may idealize each other due to romantic feelings and partners’ presenting themselves favorably to each other. However, this idealization can fade once couples marry and experience routine daily living. Highly passionate (i.e., quickly accelerating) courtships, replete with idealization, likely make partners vulnerable to subsequent declines in marital affection—or disillusionment. To test this notion, 168 newlywed couples provided retrospective survey and interview information on how passionate their courtship was and brief series of daily assessments of affectionate behavior during the first 2 years of marriage. Results from multilevel analyses showed that respondents who experienced highly passionate courtships reported their spouses as behaving more affectionately toward them as newlyweds, but experienced declines in perceived affectionate expression as the marriage progressed. Results persisted after controlling for possible confounding variables (e.g., age at dating onset, courtship length, premarital love, cohabitation, and conflict). Findings support the disillusionment model.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1074-1100
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Family Issues
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014



  • courtship
  • disillusionment
  • longitudinal research
  • marital affection
  • passion

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