Thursday, March 25, 2021

How to Fight With Your Spouse

Having a satisfying, healthy relationship with your partner doesn't mean never fighting - it means learning to fight well. 

But what is the best way for two people to cope with their anger, frustration, and hurt, without undermining their mutual happiness?

Thankfully, recent research by James McNulty and Michelle Russell provides the answer. The best way to deal with conflict in a marriage, it turns out, depends on how serious or severe the problem is. 

Did your spouse drink too much at the party last night, or is he drinking too much every night? Did she splurge a little too much on clothes last month, or are her spending habits edging you closer and closer to bankruptcy? Did he invite his mother to dinner without discussing it with you first, or did he invite his mother to live with you without discussing it first?

Little problems and big problems require very different approaches if you want to have a lasting, happy marriage.

When it comes to minor problems, direct fighting strategies - like placing blame on your spouse for their actions or expressing your anger - results in a loss of marital satisfaction over time. 

Flying off the handle when he forgets to pick up the dry cleaning yet again, or when she spends a little too much money on a pricey pair of shoes, is going to take its toll on your happiness in the long run. You really are better off letting the small stuff go.

In response to major problems, however, these same direct fighting strategies predict increased marital satisfaction! Expressing your feelings, blaming your partner and demanding that they change their ways will lead to greater happiness when the conflict in question is something significant - something that if left unresolved could ultimately tear your relationship apart.

Issues involving addiction, financial stability, infidelity, child-rearing, and whether or not you live with your mother-in-law need to be addressed, even if it gets a little ugly. 

Couples who battle it out over serious issues do a better job of tackling, and eventually resolving those issues, than those who swept big problems under the carpet.


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