Mediation May Help Couples Resolve Conflicts Better Than One-On-One Discussion

Posted on December 14, 2020

While all couples argue, they don’t all do it in the same way. Techniques for managing conflict have been explored by François Bogacz and team from the University of Geneva in a new study published in Humanities and Social Sciences Communication. The study’s findings suggest that mediation — negotiation facilitated by a neutral third party such as a therapist or counsellor — may be the best way for couples to resolve serious conflict.

Participants were heterosexual romantic couples who had been in a relationship for more than one year. About a month before the experiment started, participants filled in a number of measures. The “Dyadic Adjustment Scale” was used to measure the quality of relationships, with participants indicating how often they disagree with their partner on issues ranging from religious matters, sex, and life philosophy to housework and leisure time. The scale also covered how often participants thought about separating from their partner and how often there were significant disagreements.

The researchers also measured participants’ emotional competence (i.e. how well a person understands their own and others’ emotions) as well as dispositional mindfulness (i.e. how present someone is able to be in the moment). Finally, participants indicated how they respond before, during and after conflicts with people in their life. These answers revealed how much participants used four different styles of conflict: active-constructive (good at taking others’ perspectives), passive-constructive (delaying and considering a response to conflict), active-destructive (openly expressing anger) and passive-destructive (avoiding conflict altogether).

The team found that couples in the mediation condition were more likely to come to a resolution: 36 of the 38 participants in the mediation condition reported reaching an agreement compared to 26 of 38 in the control condition. Participants who had gone through the mediation process also felt closer to their partners after the discussion, while there was no change in closeness for those in the control condition.

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Category(s):Relationships & Marriage

Source material from British Psychological Society