With half of all marriages ending in divorce, everyone wants to know what makes a marriage last. One of the main factors appears to be in how couples handle conflict. While it doesn’t take a scientist to tell you that fighting and yelling will destroy a relationship, research also found that avoiding conflict doesn’t preserve a marriage either. Ladies, the silent treatment will lead you to divorce. And fellas, retreating to your “cave” is not working for you either. Unless, of course, there is a divorce lawyer in your cave.
Researchers followed nearly 400 married couples, checking in on the state of their relationships periodically. They paid particular attention to how the couples handled conflict, categorizing each person’s behavior in three ways: destructive (shouting and name-calling), constructive (listening, discussing peacefully), and withdrawal (saying nothing, retreating). Predictably, the destructive behaviors spelled doom for a marriage. However, withdrawal actions also led to a rocky relationship. Even when one spouse used healthy problem-solving techniques, if the other chose to ignore the issue, this couple was more likely to get divorced.
Factors such as affluence, college education, marrying later and being raised by parents who didn’t divorce also increased the chances of a person’s marriage lasting. Just because you avoid a fight doesn’t mean you’re safeguarding your marriage.
As this study shows, couples that hide from conflict are only likely to build up passive-aggression, which leads to more problems down the road. If a couple wants their marriage to stand the test of time, their best shot is to discuss and compromise on issues of conflict as they arise.
So if you’re a Mr. Nice Guy or a Mrs. Martyr who never speaks your mind, you may be good at a lot of things, but relationships — not so much.