Happy Valentine’s Day! Here’s some good news from research on couples.
Couples therapy often focuses on how couples fight. New research indicates that how couples recover from arguments is just as important. Researchers at the University of Minnesota were studying conflict in couples when they noticed that some couples could have intense arguments and then make a clean transition to chatting about something they agreed on. Other couples got stuck and could not move past the conflict.
Because researchers have been following this group of people since birth, they were able to look back at other information they had previously gathered about the couplesThey found people whose caregivers were able to help them regulate their emotions as infants did a better job of regulating negative emotions right after a conflict.
Couples who recovered from conflict well were more satisfied with their relationships and had a more positive outlook about the relationship. Interestingly, only one partner has to recover well. The health and balance of the relationship can be salvaged if one person disengages from and argument and avoids dwelling on negative thoughts and emotions. As it turns out, if your partner recovers well, you reap the benefit.
Researchers also looked at what couples were doing after a stressful discussion. Some of the happy discussions involved reminiscing about happy enjoyable times they shared together.
In addition to talking about positive things, couples’ recovery was related to conversation flow. Flow is like being in the zone. Flow requires being present, responding to bids for connection, and letting go of anxiety about how things will turn out. These couples were not talking about how they felt about the relationship. Rather it was a mutual process that included how the other person felt about the relationship.
Tips for Relationship Recovery
- Avoid letting the argument spill over to other aspects of your relationship such as parenting or providing support to each other. Disagreement in one area does not generalize to the rest of your relationship. Do something nice for your partner. It is important to continue to build happy memories, even if you disagree.
- Take steps toward reconciliation not drama. Focus on areas of agreement. Healthy conflict can be worked out with time. With drama, the problem feels too big and out of perspective.
- Accept where your partner is at this moment without trying to change his or her mind. It takes time to move toward mutual solutions. Respect each others timing.
- Pay attention to your feelings and reactions to situations. We all have characteristic reactions to emotional discomfort. Knowing our reactions helps assess the situation more accurately.
- Make it easy for your partner to talk with you. Appreciate and delight in your differences. Honest, loving communication can bring you great happiness and will make for a peaceful and satisfying relationship.