PREPARE/ENRICH Tips and Reminders: Idealistic Distortion

What is Idealistic Distortion? Idealism is the “act or practice of envisioning things in an ideal form.” Idealistic Distortion is the tendency to see a relationship in an overly positive manner - i.e. seeing the relationship through rose-coloured glasses.

Where are the Idealistic Distortion Items Listed?
The correction scale for assessing Idealistic Distortion are on page 18 of the Facilitators Manual.

Appendix A: Items in Inventory. Item 60 “Every new thing I have learned about my partner has pleased me.” If a person agrees with this item, it indicates that perhaps they are not acknowledging normal human faults in their partner. They are seeing their couple relationship in an overly idealistic manner.

Why do we measure Idealistic Distortion?

As an Administrator, you should be aware of whether individuals are dealing realistically with their relationship issues. When an individual is idealistic, they will tend to deny and minimize issues and will try to create an overly positive picture of their relationship. This individual may answer in an idealistic manner throughout the Inventory.

Thus, the Idealistic Distortion score allows us to adjust their scores downward in order to compensate for their level of idealism. After this adjustment is made the resulting score is called the Revised Individual Score (REV).

Key Factors in Understanding the Idealistic Distortion Score.

Idealistic distortion is an individual characteristic that distinguishes when a person is seeing their relationship in an overly positive manner. Their Idealistic Distortion score is used to correct their Individual Percentile (PCT) Score on other categories by lowering the score downward in order to create a more accurate score—called “Revised Individual (REV) Score”.

Since the REV Score is the most accurate score for the individual, the PCT score is not reflected on the Counsellor Report. Because idealistic distortion is an individual score, there is NOT a Positive Couple Agreement (PCA) score for Idealistic Distortion. So idealistic distortion does not impact on the PCA score.

Is the Adjustment for Idealism the Same in Each Category?

No, the adjustment for idealism is greater for some categories than others. That is because idealism affects some categories more than others.

For example, idealism affects the categories of communication, conflict resolution and closeness much more than leisure activities or family and friends. The exact formula is complicated and is based on research that has established the correlation between the Idealistic Distortion score and the score on each category.

Differences in Idealistic Distortion Scores can Create Tension in the Relationship.

The larger the difference between the Idealistic Distortion scores for a couple, the more frustration both will be feeling in the couple relationship. The person with the high Idealistic Distortion score will feel that their partner is “always” bringing up problems. Conversely, the person with the lower Idealistic Distortion score will feel that their partner “does not understand me” or accept the fact there are problems in their relationship. Both partners will end up feeling frustrated unless each can begin understanding the others point of view.

What does Idealistic Distortion measure versus Marriage Expectations?

The Idealistic Distortion scale measures how much a person is being idealistic and distorting their answers in a positive direction. The Marriage Expectations scale (found in PREPARE) measures how realistic their expectations of marriage are. Therefore, if a person scores high on Idealistic Distortion, they usually score low on Marriage Expectations because they have excessively high expectations for their future marriage. On the other hand, if a person scores low on the Idealistic Distortion scale, they will usually have a high Marriage Expectations score because they realize that marriage will sometimes be challenging.

Where is the Idealistic Distortion score for each person?

In the Couple Report, refer to the top of page 7 to see where the individual Idealistic Distortion Scores are printed. Each partner receives a percentile score from 1-100%.

High Idealistic Distortion scores (61% or above) indicate a person who wants to create a positive impression about their couple relationship. This person may take a defensive stance with the counsellor and the counselling process in general. This individual may be more difficult to work with because of an inability to discuss or admit difficulties in their relationship.

Moderate Idealistic Distortion scores of 40-60% indicate that the person is generally realistic in describing their relationship. This person is going to be rather realistic about their partner and their relationship.

Low Idealistic Distortion scores (0-39%) indicate that the person has a more realistic view of the relationship and may be more open to discussing problems in the relationship. This person may be pessimistic about describing their relationship.

As with all the specific scores, do not share the actual Idealistic Distortion Score with a couple. Talk in general trends (like the categories above) rather than in terms of a score out of 100.

Relevant Questions to Raise with Couple on Idealistic Distortion.

1. Do either of you think you are idealistic and are wearing rose coloured glasses when describing your couple relationship?

Most premarital couples will be idealistic. This is normal for this stage in their relationship. On the other hand, most couples coming for marital therapy are
pessimistic and have very low scores on idealism.

2. Who minimizes problems in the relationship the most? The person who minimizes problems most often is idealistic and typically
has a higher Idealistic Distortion score compared to their partner.

3. Who raises issues or more often describes problems in the relationship The person who raises the most concerns or issues about the relationship is typically the most realistic and has a lower Idealistic distortion score than their partner.

A handy hint:
An implication of this study is that, as relationship educators or counselors, we cannot afford to neglect such positive illusions. We do not want to destroy them and replace them with negative illusions, but we do need to help couples to acquire a realistic or reality-based sense of their relationship – both strengths and areas for growth. Risks are greater than they think.

More tips and reminders, tune in next week...

Contract us at: or call us today (02) 9520 4049

PREPARE/ENRICH is a customised online assessment tool that identifies each couples unique strength and growth areas. Based on their assessment results, a facilitator provides feedback sessions, helping couples to discuss and understand their results while teaching them proven relationship skills.

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