Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counseling Psychology, Ph.D.

First Advisor

Nancy J. Carbonell

Second Advisor

Jimmy Kijai

Third Advisor

Dennis Waite



The literature is clear that individuals report higher marital satisfaction when their expectations are fulfilled in marriage, but there is disagreement in the literature as to what role height of expectations plays in expectation fulfillment. Further research in this area was needed to clarify these disagreements and identify variables that interact with height of expectations to determine marital satisfaction.


Participants completed surveys that measured their a) martial satisfaction, b) optimism, c) relationship self-efficacy, d) height of marital expectations, and e) the extent to which participants felt their marital expectations were being met. Structural equation modeling was used to test a proposed model of the relationship between participants’ height of martial expectations, optimism, relationship self-efficacy, belief that their marital expectations are being met, and their marital satisfaction.


Structural equation modeling indicated that the original model was a poor fit for the data. Modification indices were used to revise the model. The revised model excluded optimism, as it did not contribute much to the model. It also accounted for relationships that had not originally been considered. The revised model revealed that high expectations were negatively correlated with marital satisfaction, unless they were fulfilled. Fulfillment of expectations was positively correlated with marital satisfaction. Having a combination of high expectations and high relationship self-efficacy was the best predictor of feeling that one’s expectations were met in marriage. Relationship self-efficacy accounted for the largest variance in marital expectation fulfillment.


This study lays to rest the long-standing disagreement in the literature about whether high marital expectations are good or bad. It suggests that whether one’s expectations are fulfilled impacts marital satisfaction more than the height of their expectations. This has implications for marriage researchers, marriage educators, and mental health professionals who work with couples. It suggests the need to shift focus from modifying the expectations of the couples we work with and instead focus on how the couple can get their expectations met. This study suggests that one way to do this may be to increase each partners’ relationship self-efficacy, a variable that is related to expectation fulfillment.

Subject Area

Marriage; Marital quality; Relationship quality