Relationship problems are negatively associated with life satisfaction. Bottom-up theories assume that relationship quality affects life satisfaction while top-down theories assume that global personality dispositions affect evaluations of relationship quality. Only bottom-up theories imply that the negative association between relationship problems and life satisfaction will be removed when the relationship is ended and that divorce thus may be a positive event for persons from troubled relationships. In this study associations between relationship problems divorce and life satisfaction were examined among 369 heterosexual couples. Relationship problems predicted life satisfaction 15 years later in both men and women. This association was significantly stronger among not-divorced than among divorced couples. Among couples with severe relationship problems those who divorced had higher life satisfaction at 15-year follow-up than those who remained together while the reverse was true among less troubled couples. The findings thus support bottom-up theories of life satisfaction.
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