Relationships are kind of like magical forests filled with mystery and confusion and getting used to the sight of another person's dirty underwear touching your cell phone. How long will it last? Will you be happy? Will your kids have his weird nose or your weird tiny ears? How much will you fight? Now, thanks to a new study, one of those questions has been answered.
TIME reports that The Ohio State University has just released the results from a study of the evolution of marital discord over time. Their findings? Married couples tend to fight at fairly consistent levels throughout the duration of their relationship. It's not getting better, but it's not getting worse.
The study followed 2,000 married couples between 1980 and 2000 and divided them into low, medium, and high conflict groups. Their findings showed very little migration between the three categories. People who fought a lot in 1980 were still going at it during the Y2K panic, and those unbothered by the 1980 elections weren't particularly punchy during that whole Bush/Gore stolen election fiasco, either. This turns some conventional knowledge on its head; many people believe that marriage starts out all hunky dory before getting terrible after children arrive on the scene, and then gets better again once the kids leave the house.
Researchers also found certain subcategories of marital relationships exhibited higher instances of divorce, but that egalitarian couples weren't any more likely to break up than couples where the man ran the show; what mattered most was that couples weren't outwardly hostile to each other.
Says Claire Kamp Dush, lead author of the study,
Marital quality has multiple dimensions, The most important takeaway is there is a lot of stability in conflict. If you're finding it difficult to live with the level of conflict in your relationship before you get married, you probably shouldn't get married.
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