This Is How Happy Couples Handle Conflict, According to Science

Choose your battles wisely.

When it comes to marriage, you would think that tackling major issues—like why you don't spend as much quality time together anymore—would be more important than figuring out whose turn it is to do the dishes. But, according to a new study published in the journal Family Process, happy couples tend to focus on problems that are easier to resolve in the moment rather than delving into longstanding issues.

Researchers from University of Tennessee at Knoxville studied two groups of couples who considered themselves happily married: 57 couples who were in their mid- to late-30s and had been married an average of nine years, and 64 couples who were in their early 70s and had been married an average of 42 years.

Both groups cited intimacy, leisure, household duties, communication, and money as their most serious issues. But, upon observation, the researchers found that these happy couples concentrated on problems that were seemingly minor (like how to spend their time off or divide up the chores) as opposed to more complicated and sensitive topics (like why they weren't having as much fun in the bedroom).

"Focusing on the perpetual, more-difficult-to-solve problems may undermine partners' confidence in the relationship," the study's lead author Amy Rauer, an associate professor in child and family studies at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, said in a statement. "Being able to successfully differentiate between issues that need to be resolved versus those that can be laid aside for now may be one of the keys to a long-lasting, happy relationship."

Interestingly enough, the researchers also found that older couples who had been married longer reported fewer significant concerns than their younger counterparts, which is consistent with previous findings that suggest marital happiness actually increases once you've been together for decades.

And if you can make it through the long haul, you're in luck, since Science Says a Happy Spouse Means a Longer Life!

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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