I just love these marriage studies. They somehow always seem to be enlightening and confirm things we’ve always known deep down in our hearts all at once.
This new one out of UC Berkeley has found that when it comes to managing negative emotions surrounding conflicts—and carrying on happily after the conflict is over—that wives pull much more influence than husbands in this regard. So, basically: If, after a fight, the wife cools her jets pretty quickly, the marriage can continue to thrive.
The researchers analyzed videotapes of more than 80 couples interacting with each other, and the big constant was that if the wife calmed down quickly during and after a dispute with her husband, things returned to normal, and the couples were happier both immediately following the blow-up and in the long run. It’s one of those things where now, there are actual numbers and hard research to back up a thing that most people probably would have already said is true (you know, that whole “happy wife, happy life” thing):
While it is commonly held that women play the role of caretaker and peacemaker in relationships, the study is among the first to reveal this dynamic in action over a long period of time, researchers point out. Results show that the link between the wives’ ability to control emotions and higher marital satisfaction was most evident when women used “constructive communication” to temper disagreements.
“When wives discuss problems and suggest solutions, it helps couples deal with conflicts,” said UC Berkeley psychologist Robert Levenson, senior author of the study. “Ironically, this may not work so well for husbands, who wives often criticize for leaping into problem-solving mode too quickly.”
So while we ladies most definitely should never be pushovers or swallow anger where legit expression of anger is due, it sounds like it’s the kicking of grudges to the curb that holds the most benefits. So the next time you’re about to go nuclear on your dude after his beer-soaked golf game makes you late for your tasting with your caterer and he apologizes, takes the blame, and pledges to a perfect attendance record going forward, maybe you don’t have to forget—but it sounds like it might be worth trying to forgive before you decide whether you’ll serve the poached salmon or filet.