According to a recent U.S. study, all couples experience conflict - but how a couple communicates during a fight can determine if they will stay together.
Dr Keith Sanford, a clinical psychologist and an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University, studied dozens of couples as they communicated through a fight. Sanford and his research team focused on what determines whether a person will use positive or negative communication during an argument. He found that emotion and the types of thoughts a person uses are especially important.
Sanford says negative emotion can actually be a good thing. Sanford distinguished between two types of negative emotion, hard and soft. Hard emotion is associated with asserting power, whereas soft emotion is associated with expressing vulnerability. Sanford and his team consistently found that hard emotion escalated fights, but they also found that soft emotion is generally beneficial for relationships. Soft emotion appeared to increase a couple’s motivation to address a conflict and often led to productive approaches toward resolving the conflict.
Sanford also found that men and women approached arguments differently, and that couples were often driven by their expectations during a fight.