How happy couples argue: Focus on solvable issues first

Posted on September 19, 2019

Most married couples tend to argue about issues regarding children, couples, intimacy and in-laws. In order to investigate the differences between happy and unhappy couples, researchers from Northwestern University, University of Missouri and the University of Michigan embarked on a study to examine the ways in which different couples argue.

Two samples of heterosexual couples who claim to be in a happy relationship were obtained. The first group consisted of 57 couples which were in their 30s and have been married for about 9 years on average. 64 couples from the other group were in their 70s and have been married for about 42 years.

The couples were asked to rank their issues from the most to least serious. Communication, money, intimacy and household were rated most serious, while jealousy, religion and family were perceived to be least serious.

When the researchers observed how couples worked through their marital problems, they found that the couples worked on issues that have a clearer solution, such as delegating household chores and making time for leisure. Couples who have been together for a longer period of time had lesser conflicts. The couples rarely decide to quarrel about more challenging problems, and researchers think that this could be the key to happy relationships.

When couples work out their problems, starting on harder problems may reduce their confidence in the relationship. Such issues are challenging as facing them might lead to more conflicts between the couples because some of the problems are difficult to bring up without contesting the competence of the partners. As such, couples who have not built up confidence in managing conflicts may fall apart more easily if they try to deal with problems that have ambiguous solutions. In contrast, couples who focus on more solvable problems first will help to build a secure foundation and enhance the self-efficacy of partners to resolve difficult issues.

It is important for couples to be able to distinguish between solvable issues and issues that should be left for the future, hence targeting their problems strategically. This could then result in a happier and healthier relationship.

Category(s):Couple Counseling

Source material from Science Daily