Mommyish Poll: How Do You And Your Spouse Deal With Conflict?

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I’ve always assumed that marriage had high points and low points. Depending on stress or family trauma or successes, committed couples would go through some lulls that eventually evened out with the high points. Apparently, I shouldn’t make such assumptions. A recent study to be published in the Journal of Family Issues found that levels of conflict stay relatively consistent throughout a marriage. The researchers followed more than 2000 married people who were interviewed up to five times within a 20-year time span. Throughout that time frame, couples who argued frequently consistently did so.

Looking at both the level of conflict and the reasons for staying away from conflict, the study broke down couples into four different types.

  • Validators: “The lower conflict couples who had equal decision making tended to fall into the validator marriage category, who report high and middle levels of happiness and no more than middle levels of conflict. About 54 percent of couples were in this category, and had low levels of divorce,” reports the study. This is great news for couples who work together well. The study also says that these couple tend to share both decision-making and household chores pretty evenly.
  • Avoiders: These couples normally believe in very traditional gender roles and have conservative outlooks. They believe that a marriage is a life-long commitment and therefore they avoid conflict with their spouse to try to maintain a happy home. These couples also have low levels of divorce and they accounted for about 6 percent of the couples surveyed.
  • Volatile: Marriages were considered volatile when they had middle to high levels of conflict, along with middle to high levels of happiness. These couples may argue and debate, but they seem to enjoy it. About 20 percent of couples reported this type of relationship.
  • Hostile: The remaining 20 percent of couples were classified as hostile relationships. These poor people have high levels of conflict and low levels of happiness. Unsurprisingly, they were most likely to divorce.


The study was interesting in that it changed the way I think about marriage. My parents, who have been married over 30 years, always told me that marriage took hard work, no matter what was going on. I guess that I interpreted that to mean that sometimes you’d argue a lot and sometimes life would be splendid. Basically, I thought that you bore out those lows because the highs were so great. Apparently, I didn’t understand marriage at all.

These classifications have made me think about the ways my husband and I deal with conflict in our relationship. While we have very firm beliefs on marriage as a life-long commitment, no one would assume that we have traditional views on gender roles. In fact, while I’m working 70 hour work weeks, my husband picks up all the slack on housework without a single complaint. And he works full-time as well. All in all, if our first few years together are an indicator of our conflict and happiness in the years to come, I have to admit that I’m optimistic about the future.

But what about you all? How do you does your marriage fit into the latest classifications?

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(Photo: Thinkstock)