A new study has some potentially heartwarming news: for couples, a good conversation can help relieve the stress of an argument. But not just any conversation works: at least one of the partners has to get really immersed in the talk.
According to a EurekAlert press release, researchers at Kansas State University studied 50 young couples (ages 18 to 20) who had been dating for more than six months but weren't engaged. First, they stressed the poor kids out by having them talk about a big area of conflict in their relationship. Then they asked them to talk about a happy time, like their first kiss or a fun vacation. At each point in the experiment, they tested both partners' levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Unsurprisingly, people whose hormone levels dropped –- showing that they were calmed by the happy talk — were more likely be satisfied with their relationships. But what's interesting is that a particular kind of talk was associated with this drop in cortisol. Says study author Brenda McDaniel,
In addition to recovery being associated with positive relationship outcomes, we also saw recovery being related to conversation flow. Those individuals whose stress hormone levels remained high didn't enter into that state of flow.
McDaniel describes flow as being "in the zone," losing track of other things. She points out that when we talk about flow, we usually talk about "a job or activity." "But," she says, "our study examined how couples might experience flow during conversation." It makes sense that it takes more than just saying words to make people feel better after an argument — and really, there are few things more soothing than getting really lost in a conversation. Interestingly, the press release doesn't mention any differences between men's and women's reactions, so maybe men actually like talking to their partners too. And rather than being an annoying chore that women force on their boyfriends, maybe talk can actually keep people together. Shocking, I know.
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