If you’re part of a couple, you’ve probably learned there are hot topics that often spark an argument between you. As relationships grow and change, many long-term couples have adapted to the patterns of their interactions and communication and have discovered ways to stay together despite conflicts. A recent study cited in an article on Redorbit.com confirms that older couples have learned to avoid those toxic spots.
The researchers from San Francisco State University recently reported the results of the 13-year study in the Journal of Marriage and Family. The study examined 127 middle-aged or older long-term married couples and observed how they handled conflicts about various areas, like finances or division of household chores. In particular, they looked at a pattern of confrontational communication called “demand-withdraw,” where one partner makes a demand and the other withdraws. An often destructive communication model in relationships, the researchers found that typically, these older couples avoided conflict when talking about hot-button topics or in a demand-withdraw situation.
Going for the Positive
Sarah Holley, an assistant professor of psychology at San Francisco State suggests that as couples age they hold a greater value on positive experiences and feel arguments are less important. Holley says the demand-withdraw interaction is damaging, “It can lead to a polarization between partners which can be difficult to resolve and takes a major toll on the relationship.”
Avoidance is often thought to be a dangerous problem area for couples. But the researchers believe for older couples who have had many years to talk about their disagreements, the toxic topics are somewhat diffused by partners moving away from these recognized hot subjects and communication patterns. Holley thinks this reflects a desire for older couples to make the most of their remaining years.