Low Conflict Does Not Equate with Great Long-Term Marriage

A three-year study completed at the University of Texas at Austin evaluated 156 newly married couples regarding their conflict levels and marital happiness. They were followed for three years to determine whether low-conflict marriages were the happiest. The answer: yes in the short-term and no in the long-term.

At the beginning of the study, when the couples were still newlyweds, they did indeed equate a happy marriage with low levels of conflict. In other words, couples who argued less were happier. However, after three years, things changed. Those who argued a lot early on reported large increases in marital satisfaction after three years, as they had resolved many of their differences.

On the other hand, many of the couples who had little conflict at the beginning of their marriage missed opportunities to cultivate and grow their relationship. Their desire to avoid conflict kept them from working out problems and reduced their marital satisfaction level, say researchers.

A Times of India article about the study concluded that “disillusionment in the early part of the relationship was a powerful predictor of divorce.”

The well-known recommendation by research John Gottman, PhD, advocating five positive interactions for everyone negative interaction comes to mind. The so-called 5:1 ratio is not only about staying positive with your spouse. It’s also about using the one negative interaction as an opportunity to discuss, negotiate or work through areas that are problematic for the couple—in hopes of moving forward and having more satisfied partners.

Are you using your conflicts in a productive manner, approaching them gently in hopes of moving forward in the relationship? Are you balancing them with plenty of positive interactions?

Photo: ©Mykola Velychko/PhotoXpress.com

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8 responses to “Low Conflict Does Not Equate with Great Long-Term Marriage

  1. Pingback: Happy Clappy Doesn’t Mean Happy Ever After…..Conflict & Marriage (via Marriage Gems) « Lovephool

  2. The etymology of the word “relationship” suggests struggle and going back and forth in an effort to forge something new. It’s a creative process. It needs to be at work in all our relationships, not just our marriage, and everyone involved has to participate for the “new thing” to emerge. I’m not saying there’s never a point where we call it quits, but the idea that pretending to get along will produce anything worth having is the easy way out.

    • Sometimes it’s the easier way out not to address an issue, and sometimes it’s hard work biting your tongue. Either way, if something is really bothering one or both partners, it’s in their best interest to share how they are feeling. Where many go astray is they use accusatory language in addressing a problem, rather than “I” language to share how an issue is impacting them. Thanks for the input. You’re such a wordsmith!

  3. I love the stories behind words. Edward Edinger, a Jungian psychiatrist who was from Indiana, called etymology the word’s unconscious. You are absolutely right about how we use them. I liked the point of the 5:1 ratio in your post too.

  4. Pingback: The collaborative power of social media, content and influence. Here’s proof! « noshtradamus

  5. Pingback: The collaborative power of social media, content and influence. Experimental Proof? « noshtradamus

  6. Hi,

    I have the dubious honor of being in two contrasting relationships at the same time ~ constant low conflict relationship with my wife; and sporadic high-conflict relationship with my girlfriend (I know, I know, that’s terrible).

    Reading the article you linked and your previous post, I would say my wife and I share a pursuer/distancer marriage (no prizes for guessing who’s who). This brings the set of problems insightfully described. On the other hand my partner in my other relationship seeks, actually aspires for a ‘disengaged’ relationship.

    Hey can someone please point me to a ‘traditional marriage’..? Or is it they don’t make those anymore?!

    Or is it that with the emancipation of women, and the metrosexualization of men, the traditional marriage will get a quiet burial; and that the rat race we all participate in, will lead us only to pursue, distance, and disengage?!

    • I can tell you traditional marriages do still exist, but you won’t come anywhere close if you’re not invested in your marriage and being honest with her about what you are seeking.

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