Life as a couple is far from being a long, quiet river. However, to hope to make your relationship last, certain attitudes should be avoided, particularly during arguments. Here’s why, according to Marie-Agnès Cateaux, psychologist.
Argument is sometimes necessary to build a relationship. If it allows us to put things back into perspective, to point out what does not suit us and to improve; you still need to know how to argue in a healthy way.
Silence, a habit to be avoided during arguments
“There are five main ways to respond to conflict when it arises: avoidance, competition, accommodation, compromise and collaboration. first summarizes psychologist Marie-Agnès Cateaux. “When there is silence in a couple, it usually comes from one person distancing themselves and fleeing the conversation, sometimes even physically fleeing by leaving the room rather than discussing. On the contrary, the other person opposite wants to talk about it.”
Beware of the attitude of certain people, who close off at the time of conflict and therefore adopt a strategy of avoidance through silence.
Why is this a harmful habit?
This attitude harms the couple because the way you manage a conflict has repercussions on the relationship. A study published a few years ago in the Journal of Marriage and Family revealed that husbands who opted for this attitude during arguments were also those who were most likely to divorce.
Generally speaking, escape/avoidance generates a negative feeling in the spouse, who is then less happy in the relationship. “When there is conflict between two individuals, and even more so in a couple relationship, we are overstimulated: there is anger, annoyance, incomprehension. These feelings will be perceived differently by each of the two parties” adds our expert. The person who chooses silence does so because they feel overwhelmed by their emotions, and will not be able, at the moment, to resolve the conflict and discuss it, to be in collaboration, with the spouse. While the person opposite is ready to do it, there is therefore a gap between the two.
Different needs that push the couple apart
“There is competition in this case, it is one spouse against the other and not the couple against the problem. In addition, when silence is left to linger, the other spouse thinks that he or she does not give value to the relationship, that there is no attempt at repair, this can be perceived as a resignation or a lack of investment, hence the fact that this is a predictive factor of divorce” analyzes the specialist.
Also, in this type of couple, the needs of the two spouses are very different. “The person who needs to resolve the conflict right away is less distressing for them, because otherwise they would ruminate and feel less well. The second spouse, who chooses silence, needs to come down on pressure, he is overwhelmed by his emotions and cannot deal with the problem immediately..
How to change things?
So that the needs of both parties are met and respected”we need to talk about it, upstream” advises Marie-Agnès Cateaux. “The spouse who usually immerses himself in silence must be able to take this time, so that his need to step back is satisfied, but he must come back later by verbalizing it clearly. For example, he should say: ‘I’m going out to calm down, I’ll come back in an hour and we’ll discuss it again’. This allows us to take into account the needs of the other, who wants to resolve the problem.”.
By opting for this way of doing things, we move from a strategy of competition to a strategy of compromise and collaboration, much more beneficial for the couple in the long term.