In the study, researchers followed their study subjects from birth to their 20s and found a connection between their attachment style as infants and how they recovered from conflict in adult romantic relationships. The 20-something couples were asked to talk about a topic they disagreed on and then had a cool down period where they had a conversation about something they were in sync on. The researchers noticed that some partners had heated conflicts and yet were able to smoothly transition into chatting about a topic they agreed on, while in other partnerships, one or both partners would ruminate on the conflict topic, unable to get past the disagreement. Researchers found that people who had secure attachments to their caregivers as infants were better at moving past conflicts with their romantic partners two decades later.
But all is not lost if you or your husband didn’t have the most stable, reassuring parents growing up. You can still have a healthy relationship if one partner is secure and able to disengage from an argument rather than dwelling on a heated disagreement. According to the study author, “We found that people who were insecurely attached as infants but whose adult romantic partners recover well from conflict are likely to stay together. If one person can lead this process of recovering from conflict, it may buffer the other person and the relationship.”
Fostering Healthy Communication
You and your partner are going to fight now and then. That’s a given. But while you may not always have control over what sets you off, you have control over how you handle the situation. By taking a deep breath and employing these smart strategies, you can keep your relationship in (healthy) fighting shape.
Stay on point. What exactly are you fighting for? And no, “being right” doesn’t count as an objective. “Healthy, positive communication in any relationship should start with the following: respect, consideration, empathy, an open mind and a calm tone,” notes Burke. “The next step requires each person to consider their objectives before communicating thoughts and feelings with the other.”
Being clear on your purpose—whether it’s asking for more help with chores around the house or convincing your mate that a new couch, not a ping-pong table, is a necessity in the household budget—keeps a quarrel from going into pointless (and sometimes) dangerous territory.
Adds Burke, “positive healthy communication is not confrontational or argumentative, rather it’s an attempt to get what one needs from his or her partner with the clear understanding that we must be willing to give to get. Finally, the key to successful resolution is not to focus on the problem—old or new—but instead to focus on the resolution.”
Watch your language. Research shows that choosing the right fighting words can keep an argument from turning nasty and sending stress levels skyrocketing. According to a study published the journal Health Psychology, couples who used cognitive processing words, such as “think,” “consider,” “understand,” “because,” or “reason,” during heated arguments showed smaller increases of stress-related, inflammatory chemicals than pairs who didn’t—and the effects lasted for more than 24 hours.