How to Argue Happily: Bank Easy Successes First

By Nikki Harper

Staff Writer for Wake Up World

Relationships are not easy. All couples argue, whether they’ve only just met or have been together for decades. Even the most stable couples are still two individual people, who will have different views, wishes and ideas at least some of the time during their relationship. However, new research suggests that the happiest couples tend to argue in a distinct way, which could account for their ongoing happiness.

In a study undertaken by the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, researchers discovered that happy couples tend to tackle their easiest problems first [1]. They are then able to ‘bank’ that successful resolution, which eventually may make it easier for them to tackle any more difficult problems they come across.

The study involved two batches of couples – 57 couples in their mid to late thirties who had been together on average for 9 years, and 64 couples in their early 70s, who had been together on average for 42 years. All of the couples had self-defined themselves as happily married.

While all couples in the study ranked intimacy, leisure decisions, household decisions and money as among their most serious problems, they were observed to first focus on arguing out those issues which had the clearest potential solutions [1] – for example, they might argue about how to redistribute household chores, which is something with a clear potential outcome, with one or other partner taking on more or less, depending on the outcome of their argument and negotiation. Another potentially solution-focused argument might be that of how to spend leisure time, which again has a number of clear outcomes which a couple might reach.

By contrast, the couples rarely chose to engage in arguments over more difficult issues, where a clear solution might not be easy to find.

Researchers concluded that by focusing on the arguments with the best potential solutions, these couples were able to ‘bank’ those successful teamwork efforts, which cemented their confidence in the relationship [1]. Couples who frequently fight over very difficult issues, on the other hand, may consistently fail to reach a solution, which over time can undermine their confidence in their own relationship and their ability to work as a team.

Researchers considered that those couples who have successfully banked previous solutions would eventually find that arguing over the more serious issues proved less divisive and more constructive than it might otherwise have been [2].

The study also discovered that those couples who had been together the longest reported fewer serious issues and spent less time arguing overall. Researchers hypothesise that this could be because these couples perceive that their time together may be limited as they get older and that they therefore choose to prioritise their relationship and to pick their battles carefully [1].

This interesting study reminds us that to argue or not in a relationship, over any given issue at any given time, is a choice. We can choose not to have that argument, or we can choose to have it more constructively. By being more aware of the battles we pick and the solutions we’re looking for, we may just be able to strengthen a relationship instead of tearing it apart.

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About the author:

Nikki Harper is a spiritualist writer, astrologer, and editor for Wake Up World. She writes about divination, astrology, mediumship and spirituality at Questionology: Astrology and Divination For the Modern World where you can also find out more about her work as a freelance astrologer and her mind-body-spirit writing and editing services. Nikki also runs a spiritualist centre in North Lincs, UK, hosting weekly mediumship demonstrations and a wide range of spiritual development courses and workshops.

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