By Mike Stetzer
Researchers at Baylor University have concluded from a recent study that the nature of communication between a husband and wife during an argument may determine whether that couple will stay married or get a divorce in the future.
Dr. Keith Sanford studied a dozen married couples during arguments with the goal of determining what factors would cause a person to use positive or negative communication. For example, what would cause a husband or wife to be more defensive and fire back demeaning statements at a spouse? Conversely, what factors would cause both parties to be less hostile and more cooperative during an argument?
Sanford found that emotion and expectation are key factors for determining the type of communication used during arguments. He quickly determined that not all negative emotion is a bad thing and separated it into "hard" and "soft" categories. According to his findings, hard emotion conveyed an assertion of power while soft emotion established a feeling of vulnerability.
Based on Sanford's observations, using hard emotion during arguments would more likely escalate disputes. On the other hand, Sanford found soft emotion to be more beneficial in that it created a feeling of cooperativeness within married couples.
If Sanford's suggestions are accepted, it would seem that couples which primarily use hard negative emotions during arguments would be more likely to be at odds with each other and potentially get a divorce. Couples using soft negative emotions would seem more likely to work out and get past disagreements, and move on in their marriage, at least according to Sanford's argument.
Regardless of what you may think of these assertions, it is obvious that emotion is vital aspect of any argument. So what determines the type of emotions that husbands and wives using during arguments with each other?
Sanford addressed this question and found that men and women approach arguments differently, and that the expectations they bring into a dispute may determine the types of emotion they use. He concluded that women in his study were more likely to form their expectations based on what's happening during the argument. The men were more likely to form their expectations based on their feelings about the relationship as a whole.
Sanford said his study teaches an important lesson for married couples. Each party should try to be aware of their individual expectations during an argument and not let these thoughts lead to hard negative emotions which could intensify disputes and create long-term feelings bitterness. This proposition may be easier said than done during the heat of an argument, however.
Regardless of whether you think the Baylor University Study shines a new light on divorce or merely restates ideas that are already known, it does reveal how marriages are dynamic relationships requiring constant work.
And in those cases when marriages don't work out, the divorce process may become a battleground for what Sanford describes as "hard negative emotions."