You’ve seen them at dinner, the couples whose fighting escalates to shouting matches or those who close their eyes into slits, purse their lips and fire off sarcastic put downs at their mates over their Chardonnay or Coors Light.
They seem like they’re heading for divorce.
Not necessarily. Some people fight and like it.
John Gottman, Ph.D., professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle, says there are three types of fighters:
• The ones who validate the other person’s experience and work it out together. (“I understand why you spent the rent money on a motorcycle for your mid-life crisis.”)
• The ones who fight vocally. (“You middle-aged, mindless jerk! How could you?”)
• The ones who agree to disagree. (“Ok, I guess I’ll have to figure out another way to pay the rent.”)
As long as the verbal fighters understand each other and aren’t bothered by it, they can stay together. Husband and wife know it’s a way to let off steam and so they manage their expectations.
In a study, Gottman discovered that couples argue about the same issues 69 percent of the time. As reported in “Psychology Today,” his long-term study of 670 couples showed that couples don’t actually resolve their problems, but learn to live with them.
Should they change partners, they’ll just get a different set of unresolved issues.
So what’s the key to happiness? “Establish a dialogue with the problems, learning to live with them much the same way someone learns to live with a bad back," he says.
The trick is to acknowledge your partner’s limitations.
Uh-huh. That’s not hard.
Gottman, however, also pointed out that the positive interactions in your relationship have to outweigh the negative arguments five-to-one.
Otherwise the couple won’t last until their silver anniversary, or even their fifth.