Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Couples' thoughts during disagreements affect relationship satisfaction

Date:
May 14, 2013
Source:
National Communication Association
Summary:
People who are unhappy in their romantic relationship spend more time during a disagreement thinking about how angry and frustrated they are, but happy couples coordinate their thoughts so that when one partner has many emotional thoughts, the other has few, according to a new study.

People who are unhappy in their romantic relationship spend more time during a disagreement thinking about how angry and frustrated they are, but happy couples coordinate their thoughts so that when one partner has many emotional thoughts, the other has few, according to a new study recently published online in the National Communication Association's journal, Communication Monographs.

"Among happy couples, when one partner is thinking a lot about disagreement or anger, the other instead may be thinking about how to understand his or her partner or how to resolve the conflict," said lead investigator Anita Vangelisti, Ph.D., professor of communication at the University of Texas at Austin.

The findings, Vangelisti said, show that people's thoughts during a conflict situation reflect and shape their own relationship satisfaction and can even affect how happy their partner is.

Vangelisti and her colleagues studied 71 young unmarried heterosexual couples in Texas, who had been together an average of three years. Each person was encouraged to privately express his or her thoughts aloud to a researcher while in a separate room from the other partner and while communicating about a topic of conflict with the partner via a computer chat program. The chat program showed the person's typed messages in one section and the partner's replies and messages in another section, but did not display the person's vocalized thoughts, which were tape recorded.

In most cases, the couples discussed a topic of disagreement that both participants had listed in a questionnaire about conflict issues. Before the study, they also completed a questionnaire about their relationship satisfaction. Topics of conflict included amount of time spent together, money, past dating relationships, alcohol use, and friends and relatives who disapproved of their relationship. The researchers told the couples they had 10 minutes to discuss the topic and come to a resolution. A researcher sat behind the participant in each room and reminded that study subject to voice his or her thoughts throughout the interaction.

The researchers found that during a discussion involving conflict with a romantic partner, when one person thinks about making excuses or denying his or her role in the conflict, the other partner was likelier to be unhappy in the relationship than those whose partner did not "stonewall."

People in unhappy relationships were more likely to be inflexible in their thinking and more interested in changing the subject of discussion. They also thought more about how repetitive the discussion felt. When both people in the relationship were dissatisfied, they were more likely to think about the power they had or their partner had in the relationship. They also were more likely to focus their thoughts on disagreement or emotions, such as anger and frustration, at the same time as their partner.

"We don't have data on what happens when partners change their thoughts, but our findings certainly do suggest that thinking about how angry and frustrated you are -- or thinking about how much power is being wielded during a conflict -- is not beneficial for the relationship," Vangelisti said.

She speculated that people's thoughts might affect their partner's relationship satisfaction because they often voice their thoughts to their partner or, in a real-life setting, they send nonverbal messages.

Unlike other studies, which found differences between men's and women's thoughts during disagreement, the current study found only one statistically significant sex-based difference in thoughts: women were more likely than men to blame their partner.

"The results … raise questions about widely accepted differences between women's and men's cognitions," the authors wrote.

The investigators cautioned, however, that computer-aided interactions are not the same as face-to-face conversations because they do not give participants access to each other's expressions or tone of voice. Participants' thoughts may therefore differ from those they might have during a face-to-face conflict, they concluded.

The article, "Couples' Online Cognitions during Conflict: Links between What Partners Think and their Relational Satisfaction," is currently online in Communication Monographs.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Communication Association. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Anita L. Vangelisti, Ashley V. Middleton, Diana S. Ebersole. Couples' Online Cognitions during Conflict: Links between What Partners Think and their Relational Satisfaction. Communication Monographs, 2013; DOI: 10.1080/03637751.2013.775698

Cite This Page:

National Communication Association. "Couples' thoughts during disagreements affect relationship satisfaction." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 May 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130514085012.htm>.
National Communication Association. (2013, May 14). Couples' thoughts during disagreements affect relationship satisfaction. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130514085012.htm
National Communication Association. "Couples' thoughts during disagreements affect relationship satisfaction." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130514085012.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) A study by German researchers claims watching TV while you're stressed out can make you feel guilty and like a failure. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
China's Ageing Millions Look Forward to Bleak Future

China's Ageing Millions Look Forward to Bleak Future

AFP (July 24, 2014) China's elderly population is expanding so quickly that children struggle to look after them, pushing them to do something unexpected in Chinese society- move their parents into a nursing home. Duration: 02:07 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Idaho Boy Helps Brother With Disabilities Complete Triathlon

Idaho Boy Helps Brother With Disabilities Complete Triathlon

Newsy (July 23, 2014) An 8-year-old boy helped his younger brother, who has a rare genetic condition that's confined him to a wheelchair, finish a triathlon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins