Conflict is inevitable in romantic relationships, including ours — we didn’t even agree on how to start writing this article. Allison said we should begin by looking through some booooring research. Adam wanted to make a list of our conflicts and put it out there for readers to judge. Which is a great way to start a fight.
Instead, we chose to compromise and begin with some interesting research from psychologist John Gottman and his Love Lab. To understand what makes for a happy marriage, he videotaped hundreds of couples at various stages of marriage having conversations about their relationships. Then he tracked the couples for years and was able to predict which split up and which stayed together with 90% accuracy.
It wasn’t arguing in itself that predicted whether couples separated. What mattered was how they handled disagreements when they arose. If you show contempt for your partner or resort to name-calling, it doesn’t bode well for your marriage. Among couples who stuck together, both partners took responsibility for their own contributions to the argument, and they even showed affection while fighting.
Like any self-respecting couple with degrees in psychology and psychiatry, we try to apply some of these findings to our marriage — and we think you can do the same for yours.
Lighten the mood with a little humor.
One day we had a difference of opinion about how to handle a contract. After reading it four times, Adam was ready to sign it and be done, while Allison wanted to go through every line in detail — again. But she thought Adam had lost interest, and even if he agreed to look at the document further, she feared he wouldn’t give it his full attention. Allison decided to have some fun by tinkering with one line. The contract stated (inexplicably) that documents containing confidential information could not be left behind or discussed in public places, including elevators, restaurants, and restrooms. She decided to play up the absurdity of this by saying she was very concerned that the list of public places didn’t include gondolas.