When it comes to marital spats, a couple is more likely to be happy if the wife calms down before the husband, according to a recent study from researchers at UC Berkeley and other universities. The study tracked 80 Bay Area heterosexual couples over 20 years, and analyzed videos of how they cooled down after fights. We’ll discuss the findings with two of the study’s lead researchers, and look at what roles age and gender play. How do you resolve marital conflict?

Robert Levenson, director of the Clinical Training Program and Psychology Clinic at UC Berkeley; and senior author of the study
Lian Bloch, licensed psychologist and assistant professor at the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology-Stanford Consortium; and lead author of the study, "Emotion Regulation Predicts Marital Satisfaction: More Than a Wives' Tale"

  • Narwal

    I wonder if some women in SF feel trapped in bad marriages but are unable to find a new partner because they believe, often wrongly and self-defeatingly, that most men in the city are gay. I think it must be even more dire for conservative-leaning women in bad marriages, as they not only would lean toward being paranoid homophobes but would also prefer to denigrate the more abundant liberal men rather than adjust their errant views.

  • thisismyaccount

    Cookie cutter, self help claptrap. That’s what this entire conversation is.

    • Michael McConnell

      what are you talking about?

  • guud00

    Another recent study revealed that bisexual couples were not so sensitive about extra-relationship affairs, that they don’t get so boxed-in by sexual issues like destroys heterosexual couples’ relationships..

  • Libby

    My husband and I have been married 33 years and in the early days I always backed down first and even searched for ways to apologize for my part in the fight. The hard part was that I knew that he was always going to go in for one last shot at me before we were done. That was a tough thing to accept and willingly stand in the face of but I knew that ultimately, it was the only way we were going to move on. I just thought I was weak and submissive. I love hearing that it’s scientifically shown that women are the peacekeepers in successful marriages. We got therapy at about year 7 and just the act of walking into that room together was such a statement of our love for each other. It was a huge turning point.

  • Patrice

    Your guests discount the value of teaching communication strategies yet John Gottman’s research and steps for resolving conflict emphasizes that the first 2 steps of conflict resolution are 1. each person takes a turn talking about what they are feeling and 2. Discussing and validating each others subjective realities. Please comment on why you discount teaching communication strategies.

  • anonymous

    This is very sad because it appears that women of that generation are constantly being put in the position of being the “responsible adult” in the relationship while the man is allowed to remain Peter Pan. For example in my parent’s relationship it seems as if she is his servant. And I know the only issue I have in my marriage with my husband is that he seems to put the “me” needs before the the “we” needs of the marriage and family. (Case in point the man who is watching the game or playing a video game while his wife is cleaning the room or taking care of children around him.) It’s sad to see this has played out. I’ll bet if you asked these women in your study if they were happy – maybe 50% would say “no.”

    • David N

      The guests were quick to point out that their research was observational, not prescriptive. The women weren’t “put” in that position as part of a randomized trial, they chose to step into that position, and we only see the marriages in this research that succeeded. Certainly some marriages failed when neither party could be the “responsible adult”, and certainly some succeeded because the man chose to be that person. Don’t mistake a retrospective of what worked in the past as a prescription for how success needs to look today. If anything, I take away from their research that *both* parties should do what they can to be a responsible adult, and if one can’t, but the other is OK with that (regardless of the gender of either), then good for them. I would take you up on your wager. It sounds like you are projecting your own ideas of fairness onto a generation that you’re unfamiliar with and drawing conclusions.

      • Michael McConnell

        Great points David. I think one of the most practical things that can come out of the research is that efficient de-escalation and constructive handling of conflict is central to long term marital satisfaction – regardless of how it’s initiated. While the data says that the woman is most important, that’s a result of the women in this cohort (and perhaps more broadly) being seen as the thermometer of emotional well-being within the couple – that is, both sides are looking to the woman to know whether or not things are good. It’s NOT saying things have to be this way. I hope that the data can serve as a reminder to couples that fiery, unresolved fights can have long term consequences and maybe that can be enough of a carrot to work on better communication

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