There’s a very interesting article this week on Huffington Post’s LovePost50 page. Called “Marriage Advice: A Simple Tip For Maintaining A Long-Term Relationship,” the article cites some very interesting research that shows that how we approach conflicts with our spouses changes as we age and that one surprising difference may give us a very important clue to resolving conflict in our marriages no matter how young or old we are.
According to the article, “Sarah Holley, an assistant professor of psychology at San Francisco State University,
kept tabs on 127 middle-aged and older long-term married couples over the course of 13 years. She checked in with them at least three times to determine how they handled conflicts over everything from housework to finances. Researchers also videotaped the couples as they talked, studying the types of communication they used when confronted with problematic topics.”
What Holley and her team found was that the older couples still pressured each other on issues and tended to place blame, but as they aged, they also began to change the subject more often or find ways to divert conflicts.
Although most research into conflict resolution in relationships says that issues must be dealt with rather than avoided, this may be more true of younger couples than it is of older couples.
This is in line with age-related shifts in socio-emotional goals wherein individuals tend toward less conflict and greater goal disengagement in later life stages,” said Holley in a press release.
Holley went on to explain that as we age we seem to avoid arguing in order to maintain a peaceful environment, maybe as a way to make the most out of our last years.
The article reports that
As an example of avoidance behavior, the researchers wrote that an older spouse might suggest ‘We’ve discussed this a million times; let’s just agree to disagree. Now what do you want to do for dinner?'”
This is a way of avoiding conflict, but it isn’t necessarily dodging the issue at all. It’s simply finding a way to avoid actually arguing over the issue, in this case by agreeing to disagree, and then suggesting that the couple move on mentally to something more pleasant.
Since this study was conducted on couples who had been married for many years, it stands to reason that this type of conflict avoidance may help us all to be more happily married.