Research Shows Marital Fighting Style Predicts Divorce


Do you think that because you fight with your spouse, the eventual outcome will be a big ugly divorce?

According to marriage researchers, not necessarily so. However, fighting can be a predictor of divorce, and in this blog, I’ll explain why. Read on to see if you’re headed for divorce…

Conflict Within Your Marriage

There are some couples who are terrified of expressing themselves to each other for fear that things will escalate into a full-blown argument, and this will begin a trend that can only result in disaster: a divorce.

Then, there are couples on the opposite end of the spectrum who are quite vocal about what they think and feel, and their relationships could almost be characterized – at least to outsiders – as one big fight that never ends.

You may know couples like this. I think we all do. In fact, you and your spouse may be one of these couples.

In any human relationship, there is bound to be conflict. Person A has needs, represented as T, U and V, while person B has needs too, represented as X, Y and Z. Inevitably, because these needs are not exactly the same, there is going to be a clash as each person strives to get their T need or their Y need met.

You and your spouse are individuals who came together into the union of marriage. Rarely does anyone marry someone else who has the exact same needs so there’s never any conflict.

Add to individual needs the underlying layer of emotions and personal history: we’re all a product of our upbringing, what we observed in terms of relationships while growing up, and how we learned to express our needs.

This brings us to how we handle conflict – and whether or not we engage in fighting with our spouse.

Successful Married Couples Fight Like This…

If you’ve ever seen a couple heatedly arguing back and forth, you may have thought, “They’re headed for divorce.” Or, you may have thought it in the heat of your own battle with your spouse, thinking the marriage is over.

This could be true, but it depends on one very critical element: How is the fight conducted?

It’s how you manage conflict with your spouse that is the biggest predictor of divorce. Let me explain.

Utilizing data from seven long-term studies, marriage researchers have identified variables that, such as actions and attitudes, that predict whether or not a marriage will succeed. The studies included people from all ranges on the marriage spectrum, from newlyweds to long-term marriages.

One of the biggest variables in predicting the outcome of marriage was how a couple expressed themselves to one another. Those who had successful marriages:

1-    Expressed their dissatisfaction

2-    Brought up their complaint gently rather than with a sledgehammer

3-    Got directly to the point instead of insinuating or hinting

4-    Didn’t dress up their complaint but laid it out as it was

5-    Didn’t talk down to or criticize their spouse

So, how does your fighting style stack up? Work through the following exercise to find out:

Step 1: Analyze your marriage fighting communication style

Take an honest look at yourself, because no one knows you better than you: when you argue with your spouse, do you express yourself gently, or do you wait until things build up and you explode? This could lead to you talking down to your spouse or criticizing them harshly – when you never intended this to be the outcome.

Also, if you’re recovering from your spouse’s affair, it may be a time of extreme emotional upheaval for you now, and you don’t feel like your “self,” with your emotions getting the better of you.

Step 2: Consider what your fights consist of

When you and your spouse are in the midst of an argument, are you direct about what you’re feeling, or do you beat around the bush in hopes they’ll just “get it?” Do you feel you are able to adequately express your dissatisfaction with the issue at hand, or do you find yourself bringing up past slights and hurts?

Step 3: Timing of arguments

Your spouse and you at any time can hit a point of conflict. When this happens, do you feel safe to bring up the issue at the time, or is it something you let fester? Is there a more productive way you could handle conflict so that it doesn’t escalate?

My very best to you as you examine your fighting style with your spouse and how it may impact your marriage.

How do fights with your spouse end up? Is there satisfactory resolution?

When you fight with your spouse, are you afraid it means you’re headed for divorce?

As you and your spouse argue, what thoughts are going through your mind? Do you wish, as a couple, you could handle conflict better?

Please share your ideas and experiences with the community.