What counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how compatible you are, but how you deal with incompatibility.
In Psychology Today’s July/August issue, an article called, Advance Warning, discusses why sometimes even couples who seem happy often still end up getting a divorce. Author, Mary Diduch, says UCLA researchers tracked couples for 10 years and found certain patterns that lead to divorce were present from the beginning. Negative characteristics such as: aggression, anger and contempt can sometimes outweigh the the positives: commitment, lack of stress or strengths in personality.
Diduch notes that in the beginning of a marriage, the good times are still outweighing the bad, until eventually, communication breaks down. Three main reason for this: aggression, repression and denial.
Aggression in seemly healthy couples may just boil down to the lack of controlling our tempers. (The article points to husbands, but I know many woman who can have tempers, so let’s be real and throw us gals into the aggression mix.)
Repression, which does probably have women in the front lines, is the conflict-avoidance game we all play. In fact, I think if repression were an Olympic Sport, women would be kicking some serious ass in it. I personally, could have earned many gold medals. I would have been the Michael Phelps of Conflict-Avoidance.
I can hear the announcer now, “And now we have Kari Laskowski waking up to a house full of empty beer bottles, the Wii playing in the background and her boyfriend asleep on the couch. Did you see the look on her face? It’s pure ambivalence. What amazing strength she has. How is she going to handle it Bob?” Bob replies, “Well, we’ve seen it before, Sunday morning, her boyfriend and his friends up drinking having a good time and Kari waking from a sleepless night after several requests to “be quiet” or “turn in down” knowing she had to work in the morning. Oh, hang on, it looks like she’s making a move…it looks like she’s leaving…and she just slammed the door! Pretty good slam, but I think she will still remain a front runner. She has several hours of the “silent treatment” still coming. We’ve all seen how good she is at that. I think it will be enough to medal again this year!”
The last behavior is Denial. Here couples try to maintain a healthy looking relationship despite the reality that his avid t.v watching is driving her crazy or her nagging him is never ending. Instead of approaching the problem couples choose to admit that it’s not a problem worth addressing after all. Eventually, as minor as it may be the issue will chip away at the the relationship.
So basically, as happy as we may seem, if we don’t address the “minor” issues they can turn into “major” ones over night. If we learn to be aware of our aggression then approaching conflicts won’t be as draining. And we all know it’s repression that makes the conflict bigger than it needs to be.
I’ve found over the years, if you explain why “this” is annoying it’s more appreciated than the full on screaming monster than comes out when the filter is in overdrive (or when one of you is drunk).
Just a side note: when you decide to take on this tactic of “approaching the issue” just know it’s more than likely going to be reciprocated. So, bring neutral energy and be ready to accept responsibility for your part. And whatever you do: Don’t take it personally! As ugly as it can be, it comes from love and it can’t be as ugly as divorce.