“Happily ever after” always sounds good in stories and fairy tales, but when it comes to real-life relationships, avoiding the occasional battle or disagreement is pretty much impossible. Happily married couples indeed fight even if they have been together for ages.
Research conducted at the University of Tennessee
University of Tennessee researchers found that the major frictions between happy and unhappy married couples happen on the same common issues: income, lack of intimacy, in-laws, etc. However, the difference between a happy couple and an unhappy couple is how they handle those issues within themselves.
Two groups of self-described “happily married” couples were analyzed by researchers. One group consisted of 57 couples who had been married for an average of nine years in their mid-to-late 30s, and the other group consisted of 64 couples who had been married for an average of 42 years in their early 70’s. Both groups were asked to list some of their most serious and least serious marital problems, and both groups produced very similar results. Couples listed issues such as income, communication, and intimacy as some of their most significant issues, and included issues such as jealousy and religion among their least important issues.
What researchers have to say?
“Happy couples tend to adopt a solution-oriented approach to conflict, and this is evident even in the topics they choose to discuss,” says author Amy Rauer, University Associate Professor of Child and Family Studies.
It is evident that happily married couples fight, but longer married couples reported fewer problems and argued less. One of the significant keys to a long-lasting, healthy relationship is being able to distinguish effectively between problems that need to be addressed. This would help the other non-significant problems to be kept aside for later on.
This study gives several really useful takeaways:
- Differentiate between the problems that need to be addressed
Sometimes timing makes a big difference. It is quite a challenging issue that requires a lot of cooling to figure out what you think before you can even talk about a useful solution. Lots of long-married couples might tell you there’s no easy fix sometimes. It can help to talk and think, then repeat the process over time to solve several problems well.
- Look for a solution-oriented approach
Couples who concentrated on working together to find a solution in their relationship seemed to be happier. Working as a team to find the best solutions to the less challenging issues also builds trust that is helpful while tackling more complicated problems.
Whatever stage of marriage you’re in, there’ll always be something to argue that even happily married couples fight. But always remember one thing that your partner is not your enemy. Choosing the issues you’re going to focus on will affect your marital happiness. You can make some intentional decisions together about how you’re going to engage with those issues.