Whether it’s an ongoing battle or a sudden row at the dinner table, do you know what it’s really about?
You’re spending too much time at the office? Your partner forgot to pick up milk on the way home? Probably not. The real reasons behind conflict in relationships are just what a team of US psychologists have set out to discover.
They call the things that cause couples to fight ‘underlying concerns’ and they’ve identified two that come up again and again. Lovers either tend to worry that there’s a threat to their relationship or they think their partner is neglecting them, the team’s research has shown.
With those findings in mind, they conducted two studies, asking 953 married or cohabiting people what they wanted their better half to do to resolve a current feud. Next the researchers linked these desires to the two underlying concerns that lead most couples to fight.
Giving up power
Whether it’s their partner admitting they’d done something wrong or showing more respect, the desire to have the power balance shift in their favour topped the list among study participants.
The balance of control and power in a relationship is a sensitive subject for most couples, say the researchers. When someone wants their partner to give up power, it’s likely that the underlying concern is that the relationship is at risk.
So what do you do if you know your partner is feeling worried about where things stand? Calmly backing off could help. Compromising on a major issue, listening to their side of the story, and recognising when you’re in the wrong are some of the ways the study identified to shift the power in their favour.
Showing you care
Feuding couples also wanted to see signs their partner really cared about them by showing just how invested they were in the relationship, for example by being more loving, supportive, or appreciative.
More communication was another big issue – many people hoped their lovers would take more time to share intimate thoughts and feelings with them.
Wanting a partner to show investment in a relationship and a desire for more communication are clues that the underlying concern is related to neglect. If your partner is upset because you’re not making time for them, becoming actively involved by giving a thoughtful gift or sharing more of your life might just do the trick.
What causes fights between you and your partner? Leave a comment here or on Facebook.