Let's face it, couples fight. Sometimes the arguments are small, like how one person feels they're the only one who changes the toilet paper roll, and some are larger, like arguments that involve finances or childcare. While most experts advocate for couples having an open line of communication and speaking openly about the things that bother them about each other, new research is showing that couples tend to be happier when they choose to discuss issues they know they can resolve, and ignore the ones that may be a bit more problematic.
A study titled What are the Marital Problems of Happy Couples? recently published in the journal Family Process shows that while happy couples tend to argue about the same things unhappy couples argue about, it's how they argue that makes a difference.
“Happy couples tend to take a solution-oriented approach to conflict, and this is clear even in the topics that they choose to discuss,” lead author Amy Rauer, associate professor of child and family studies and director of the Relationships and Development Lab in the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences told the University of Tennessee.
In the study, Rauer and three other study co-authors looked at 121 couples who identified as happy. Just under half of the couples were younger and married on average of nine years while just over half of the couples were older and married an average of 42 years. While most couples tended to argue about the same issues, the study found that they chose to argue about things they knew they would be able to resolve, while avoiding the more contentious issues that they were less likely to agree on.
“Focusing on the perpetual, more-difficult-to-solve problems may undermine partners’ confidence in the relationship,” Rauer said. In fact, Rauer said that couples who focus on the more solve-able issues in their marriage do so because it helps to build trust. “If couples feel that they can work together to resolve their issues, it may give them the confidence to move on to tackling the more difficult issues,” Rauer said.
The study also found that couples who were married longer simply argued less and had fewer serious issues in their relationship, seeming to prove that the longer a couple is together the more they know which arguments are worth having and which aren't.
“Being able to successfully differentiate between issues that need to be resolved versus those that can be laid aside, for now, maybe one of the keys to a long-lasting, happy relationship.”