Conflicts that Consume Couples

Posted: May 19, 2010 in family law
Image by Leonard John Matthews via Flickr

I read an interesting article written by Thomas Bradbury, Ph.D., regarding the conflicts that most affect couples. His article starts with “According to one widely-held view on couple relationships, how you argue is far more important than what you happen to be arguing about. Sex, careers, communication, toothpaste cap? No matter. The key to a good relationship is HOW you approach and discuss these issues, more so than anything special or difficult about the issue itself. There is a lot to recommend this view: couples benefit from following good ground rules for disagreeing, for example, and the emotional tone that couples take when discussing their problems gives us real information about where their relationship is headed.”

A study was done by Dr. Papp and her team in which couples’ everyday disagreements who were married for 12 years on average, most with two or three children, and bringing in about $50,000 in household income. The couples were asked to keep a diary for 15 days in which they recorded their “differences of opinion.” For each disagreement they had, spouses then provided details on how long this particular bout lasted, the feelings it generated, and how they left the issue. Asking people about a disagreement shortly after it occurred is demanding, but doing so is likely to be far more accurate than simply asking spouses what they disagree about in general, when the conflicts have faded into distant memory.

Seven hundred and forty-eight conflicts later, three groups of conflicts were identified. The least frequent conflicts, ranging from 6% to 12% of all conflicts were annoying personality styles and traits, friends, intimacy and sex, commitment and expectations for the relationship, and relatives.

The moderately frequent conflicts, ranging from 16% to 25% of all conflicts were annoying habits, money and spending, demands relating to work and jobs, leisure and recreation, communication and listening, and chores.

The most frequent conflicts were children, by a wide margin. Nearly 40% of all conflicts involved kids. Such as what the child is doing and why, disagreements about what to do in response to what the child has done, how to discipline the child, who will take care of the child, disputes over removing vegetables from the child’s ears, and so on.

Since the most conflicts involve the couples children, it is not surprising that these conflicts continue when the parties are no longer together. This is one of the top issues we in Family Law hear about during any custody or support matter. So, if you can’t get along when you are together, you really have to work at it later for the sake of the children.

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