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Older married couples avoid conflict, study claims

Older married couples are more likely than younger ones to avoid discussing controversial topics with their spouses, a study has claimed.

Psychologists at San Francisco State University studied the behaviour of 127 middle aged and older couples living in the San Francisco Bay area. The couples were interviewed over a period of 13 years and also monitored by hidden cameras while discussing a controversial topic.

The researchers concluded that while all the couples were equally prone to such negative tactics as applying blame or pressure when talking to their partners, those aged 60 or ever were more likely than younger ones to actively avoid controversial topics.

They cite the following as a typical example of active avoidance:

“We’ve discussed this a million times; let’s just agree to disagree. Now what do you want to do for dinner?”

Such strategies may help longer term relationships to survive, the researchers speculate, while similar behaviour amongst younger couples could cause problems because their relationships and roles within them are less well defined.

“The need to seek solutions may be more pressing due to the high levels of role strain. For long-term married spouses in later stages of life, however, avoidance behaviours might shift from being maladaptive to being a neutral or even adaptive strategy.”

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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