Being critical, angry and defensive isn’t always a bad thing for couples after they have a big disagreement - provided they are in a satisfying relationship, a new research has suggested.
The study by a Baylor University psychologist said that in that case, they likely will have a “big resolution” regardless of how negative they were during the discussion.
Keith Sanford, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and neuroscience in Baylor’s College of Arts and Sciences, said his goal was to understand conflict resolution as a process that involves change.
He recruited a sample of 734 people in heterosexual marriages or cohabitation relationships. Each participant completed an Internet questionnaire that involved identifying a recent relationship conflict and answering questions about his or her use of negative communication.
Importantly, participants also rated how upset they felt when the conflict was at its peak and also how they currently felt about the conflict.
He said that he used the difference between these two ratings as a measure of the extent of progress participants made toward resolution.
Sanford explained that people in satisfying relationships resolved their conflicts regardless of whether they used negative communication or not. In contrast, people in unhappy relationships tended to have big conflicts, and they tended to have trouble resolving their conflicts - and this was often true regardless of the type of communication they used.
To the extent that negative communication played any role, it appeared to be detrimental for resolution, but this effect was mostly negligible, Sanford said.
The study has been published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.