A relationship full of disagreements and struggles, especially one that is on the relatively newer side, will likely make the people involved question whether or not to stay with their partner long-term.  Conflict during a relationship is nearly inevitable, and a relationship without any friction might be considered too comfortable or even boring by the couple.  Forgiveness– “the internal process of letting go of anger, blame, or a need for revenge after you’ve been hurt, regardless of whether the other person ‘deserves’ it or not”– is another major factor in relationships that plays a role in determining if/when/how to resolve the issue(s) at hand. 

In 2008, a study completed by James McNulty at UT Knoxville found that “spouses married to partners who rarely behaved negatively tended to remain more satisfied over time to the extent that they were more forgiving,” however, spouses who have a partner who tended to cause more conflict and act negatively more often found that they were overall less satisfied in the relationship. 1

Being able to communicate effectively in relationships, whether with friends, family, or romantic partners, is vital for success and happiness.  In seven studies conducted at UC Berkley consisting of cross-sectional methods, experimental, diaries, and dyadic, Gordon, and Chen found that if you can understand where your partner is coming from or what he or she is trying to say, then your relationship will not be as impacted during conflicts.  In other words, perceived understanding during conflicts tends to act as a shield against the potentially damaging effects during a disagreement between partners.  This is because perceived understanding is an indicator that your partner is trying and invested in making things work. 2 

Additionally, Markman et al. published a study that found that couples who were taught how to deal with conflicts that might arise during marriage before tying the knot tended to have less stress during the first few years of the relationship. Though this study was published in 1993, its results are still valuable in today’s world. These couples who were taught how to deal with conflict were assessed by the researchers to have had more positive communication skills and overall less hostility in the beginning years of marriage. Impressively, this research was very thorough as participants were evaluated at six different points in time. 3

Ultimately, while conflicts will certainly happen during a relationship, the most important thing is understanding the best way to navigate and resolve the problems with your partner.  The ability to communicate with your partner will partly determine the strength and longevity of the relationship.  By being able to communicate effectively, understanding what your partner is trying to say, and forgiving your other half, couples can successfully make it through all of the ups and downs that life has in store.  

  1. McNulty, J. K. (2008). Forgiveness in marriage: Putting the benefits into context. Journal of Family Psychology, 22(1), 171–175. https://doi.org/10.1037/0893-3200.22.1.171
  2. Gordon, A. M., & Chen, S. (2016). Do you get where I’m coming from?: Perceived understanding buffers against the negative impact of conflict on relationship satisfaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 110(2), 239–260. https://doi.org/10.1037/pspi0000039
  3. Markman, H. J., Renick, M. J., Floyd, F. J., Stanley, S. M., & Clements, M. (1993). Preventing marital distress through communication and conflict management training: A 4- and 5-year follow-up. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 61(1), 70–77. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-006X.61.1.70

4 Replies to “The Inevitable: Conflict in Relationships

  1. I really like your blog post. I find it interesting if this balance between too many negative behaviors decreases, marital satisfaction can be quantified. That is, at what point are there “too many” negative behaviors–where is the line?

  2. I really enjoyed reading this blog post and loved the optimistic insight it provides for laying a foundation for a successful and enduring relationship. Similarly to Clare, I also found the Markman et al. study very interesting and would like to learn more about the couples in the study. Specifically, I would like to understand if there are factors that make a couple more likely to seek out this preparation for conflicts during a marriage. Could it be that couples that aim to work to communicate have long-lasting relationships because they are willing to put in the work, or is it because this preparation gives additional valuable skills?

  3. I really liked your blog. It summarised the article very well, and one part that stood out to me is how you explained how perceived understanding during conflicts tends to act as a shield against the potentially damaging effects during a disagreement between partners.

  4. The study you mentioned regarding couples preparing for possible conflicts they could experience during marriage is very interesting to me. I think that as much as you can try to prepare for how you may handle conflict, you cannot understand how it feels until you are in the moment. Thinking about the readings from last week with regard to distancing being a conflict solution for low SES couples, how might couples learn to deal with conflict if they cannot know the position they will be in when that conflict arises? For instance, it may be different if you have children, are struggling with mental health, have low/high SES and I would be interested to know what general strategies they recommend that would work for the majority of couples despite these differences.

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