Is avoiding problems really the way to marital bliss?
According to a Time article, the most common problem among couples is the demand-withdrawal cycle, which typically entails one spouse blaming the other, while the other avoid problems. Needless to say, this cycle is familiar to us all.
Many counsellors used to believe that the demand-withdrawal cycle causes couples to grow apart. Keeping mum about a problem will eventually spiral into an unresolvable divorce. Or that’s what they tell us. But is this necessarily all that true?
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Good advice, or bad advice?
New studies have revealed that the demand-withdrawal cycle may actually be more favourable than trying to resolve discords all the time. Time stated that psychologist Sarah Holley from San Francisco State University led the recent study; she videotaped 127 couples, of which one group ranges from 40 to 50 years of age, while the other ranges from 60 to 70.
Contrary to popular belief, withdrawal allows couples to avoid “conflict-laden discussions”. After painstaking observation and study, Holley realised that the conflicts had all three stages—blame, pressure and lastly, withdrawal. But older couples avoid problems much more frequently.
According to Time, a typical exchange between an old couple would resemble this: The wife might say, “You know what, we’ve had this conversation a million times. Let’s agree to disagree. What do you think we should have for dinner?” And the husband might respond, “Do we have any more lasagne left?”
Avoiding problems: Good or bad advice?
Experienced and wise, old couples are able to distinguish the right fights to pick at. After having gone through years of dispute, they recognise the types of problems worth addressing, and those that should simply be discarded.
Marital therapist, Mark McGonigle said that, “I will never advise couples on topics of conflict, but I would advise them to avoid certain kinds of arguments.” He suggested that arguments should not begin with accusations or complaints, because such negativity would only lead to unhealthy discords.
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Other marital advice
Mark McGonigle and Sarah Holley also gave other suggestions to assist couples during their conflicts. Here are 5 tips:
1. Instead of picking at unresolvable conflicts, couples should learn to understand the underlying reasons behind their spouse’s resolute position. He says everyone has a “back story” that causes them to be fixed on certain issues.
2. Try not to expect resolutions whenever an argument sparks. Most issues do not have resolutions anyway. So the next time you decide to quarrel, think about whether the problem will ever reach a consensus, and stop picking at it. This is a good way to avoid problems all together.
3. Using the right emotional tone is important. Couples who treat their spouses with affection and understanding whenever a conflict arises tend to result in less damage. Holley also recommended handling conflicts with humour and warmth.
4. There are no absolutes in marital advice. But it is wise to find the ideal ways of going about conflicts. Whatever floats your boat will keep the marital boat afloat.
5. Spend less time bickering. If the problem is not worth implicating, or you have no means of ever getting past it, let it be. Avoid problems and spend more time enjoying the lasagne instead.
Do you avoid problems for a better marriage? Tell us, we’d love to hear from you! For more on relationship mistakes and how to avoid problems, watch this video: