Brenda Volling
Brenda Volling

How happy couples argue: Focus on solvable issues first

Science Daily 9/16/19

In marriage, conflict is inevitable. Even the happiest couples argue. And research shows they tend to argue about the same topics as unhappy couples: children, money, in-laws, intimacy.So, what distinguishes happy couples? According to “What are the Marital Problems of Happy Couples? A Multimethod, Two-Sample Investigation,” a study published this August in Family Process, it is the way happy couples argue that may make 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,” said 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.

Rauer and three colleagues — Allen Sabey of Northwestern University, Christine Proulx of the University of Missouri, and Brenda Volling of the University of Michigan — observed two samples of heterosexual, mostly white, educated couples who describe themselves as happily married. Fifty-seven of the couples were in their mid- to late 30s and had been married an average of nine years; 64 of the couples were in their early 70s and had been married an average of 42 years.

Couples in both samples similarly ranked their most and least serious issues. Intimacy, leisure, household, communication, and money were the most serious, as well as health for the older couples; couples in both samples ranked jealousy, religion, and family as the least serious.

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