While in an argument with your wife, do not just run from the scene or expect her to read your mind to solve the conflict, researchers suggest. Withdrawal or expecting your lover to mind-read hurts relationships the most.
"Those are two of the most common types of disengagement in relationships and both can be harmful but in different ways and for different reasons," said researcher Keith Sanford, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience in Baylor University's college of arts & sciences.
Withdrawal is the most problematic for relationships.
"It is a defensive tactic that people use when they feel they are being attacked, and there is a direct association between withdrawal and lower satisfaction overall with the relationship," Sanford noticed.
Meanwhile, "passive immobility" - expecting your partner to be a mind-reader - is a tactic people use when they feel anxious in a relationship, and it makes it especially difficult for couples to make progress toward resolving conflicts.
"Withdrawal does not necessarily influence whether a couple can resolve a conflict. But expecting or hoping the other person will be a mind reader has a direct influence on the couple's ability to settle the issue," the authors pointed out.
The research consisted of three studies.
In the first, 2,588 married participants rated how much they used withdrawal or passive immobility and completed a relationship satisfaction index.
The second study looked at 223 adults in committed romantic relationships who completed scales measuring withdrawal, expectations of mind reading, attachment, concerns, emotion, relationship satisfaction and communication.
In the third, 135 undergraduate students in committed romantic relationships wrote about a conflict, then responded to questions about disengagement, communication and emotion during the conflict.
The findings showed that individuals were more likely to report withdrawal if they were bored or apathetic.
"There is a desire to maintain autonomy, control and distance," Sanford said.
Meanwhile, those who expected a partner to know what is wrong without being told are anxious, feeling neglected rather than threatened.
"You are worried about how much your partner loves you and that is associated with neglect. You feel sad, hurt and vulnerable," the study emphasised.
The study appeared in Psychological Assessment, the journal of the American Psychological Association.