Many marriages are probably doomed from the beginning because the partners couldn't get their act together, a study at University of Michigan has found.
While some wanted to resolve the conflict, others ignored it. The study has revealed some insights into some lesser-known truths about marital conflicts:
The husband is more likely to use constructive strategies, trying to confront a problem and resolve it by working through the disagreement, while the wife prefers to yell, or give the silent treatment and make the situation worse.
Over time, the wife is likely to change her behaviour, becoming more constructive in her approach to conflicts, while the husband is more likely to remain unchanged. Since both are willing to work together to resolve the dispute, the marriage has a better chance of succeeding, according to the study.
"You can't just have one person using constructive strategies, trying to find solutions and calmly discussing the problem. You have to have both spouses using that strategy," ABC News quoted Kira Birditt as saying.
29 percent of the husbands and 21 percent of the wives claimed they had no conflicts at all during their first year of marriage, which is doubtful since partner must make during the early months of a new marriage, and Birditt believes some spouses may have been less than candid on that question because they were interviewed separately.
"The method changed in the third, seventh and 16th year," she said, and the spouses were interviewed together. "When they are together, it's harder to lie. I can see the wife saying oh no, we did have a conflict, honey."
But perhaps the most surprising find was that greater constructive behaviours among wives predicted greater divorce rates.
"We were totally surprised by that. I'm not sure what's going on there. It might be that wives are more likely to use destructive strategies regularly, so when they use a constructive strategy it might be like the last straw. Maybe they're done with the yelling and screaming, but now they really have a problem," said Birditt.
Birditt, by the way, is in her third year of marriage, and she described herself as "happy." So how does she resolve conflicts in her own marriage?
"I think it depends on the situation," she said. "I guess I use all of them. It just depends on how mad I am."
The study is published in the current issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family.