The ups and downs of variability : are fluctuating relationship appraisals always detrimental for long-term relationship outcomes?
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Variability in daily relationship satisfaction has been shown to undermine future relationship well-being. The current study suggests that the relationship climate may moderate this effect. Namely, and in light of prior work showing that ignoring relationship issues can be detrimental for long-term relationship well-being, it is argued that when the relationship is characterized by more negative relationship experiences, variability in daily satisfaction may actually represent an adaptive acknowledgement of those experiences. Seventy-eight newly-married couples completed a 10-day daily diary task which assessed the variability of daily marital satisfaction, the positive and negative marital events taking place each day, and the daily coping strategies used to manage negative marital events. Spouses then reported on their global marital happiness as well as the severity of their marital problems every six months over the first two and a half years of marriage. Results revealed that when the marriage was characterized by more negative than positive marital events (i.e., a more negative marital climate), greater variability in daily satisfaction predicted initially lower levels of global marital happiness and more severe marital problems. However, greater variability in a more negative marital climate also was associated with less steep declines in global marital happiness and fewer increases in marital problems over time compared to low variability. Together, these findings suggest that variability in daily relationship satisfaction may temporarily feel unpleasant but over time may allow couples to address important relationship issues.