Couples aren’t generally advised to ignore conflict in their relationships, but it may actually make for a happier marriage
Every marriage is going to have its fair share of conflict. There’s just no such thing as a couple that never fights or argues. But according to a recent study published in Family Process, couples who gloss over the bigger issues in their relationships may actually be the happier ones.
The study was based on surveys and interviews with couples who described themselves as happily married. They were asked questions about their communications styles, conflicts they face, and how they tackle problems together. Overwhelmingly, researchers found that marriages were stronger and the people in them were happier when they put more of their energy into solving small, day-to-day problems, and just ignored the big ones that they wouldn’t ever agree on.
“Focusing on the perpetual, more-difficult-to-solve problems may undermine partners’ confidence in the relationship,” 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, wrote in the study.
Rauer and her colleagues found that instead, couples who focused on smaller, more solvable problems were regularly building up a sense of trust and security in their relationships. The small victories that came from solving easy problems together, like conflicts related to the division of household chores, made them feel like they were on the same team in the relationship, which in turn instilled happiness in the relationship overall.
That’s not to say that couples can’t be happy if they decide to tackle bigger problems in their relationships. But Rauer said ignoring them early on in the relationship can help build a foundation that allows a couple to tackle them later on.
“Since these issues tend to be more difficult to resolve, they are more likely to lead to less marital happiness or the dissolution of the relationship, especially if couples have not banked up any previous successes solving other marital issues,” she said.
And if this isn’t enough evidence to convince you not to argue with your spouse over something major ever, the researchers on this study also found that couples who are married longer tend not to argue about more serious issues, either. So not only does your marital status depend on tabling those hard talks, but so does the longevity of your marriage.
Then again, this may just be a case of choosing your battles wisely in your marriage. As Rauer put it, “Being able to successfully differentiate between issues that need to be resolved versus those that can be laid aside for now may be one of the keys to a long-lasting, happy relationship.”