Professor: Resolve conflict for lasting love

By Keely Savoie

Conflict is unavoidable in any long-term relationship, but how well each individual is able to let go of negativity after a conflict discussion is essential to their partner’s happiness, according to new research from Katherine Haydon, an assistant professor of psychology and education at Mount Holyoke College.

Haydon, who coauthored the paper with two of her students and a colleague from Virginia Commonwealth College, interviewed 100 couples to look at how they navigated post-conflict interactions and how that affected their happiness and long-term stability.

She found that people whose partners tried to avoid talking about problems were more likely to sabotage attempts at reconciliation in the moments after conflict—and the partners of post-conflict saboteurs were less happy one year later.

But in terms of long-term stability, resolving the conflict itself was more important than how partners behaved directly after difficult discussions. Couples who had better conflict resolution skills were twice as likely to remain together after a year than couples who did not—regardless of post-conflict sabotage behavior.

“The take-home point is, get into it so both of you can get over it,” said Haydon.

See the abstract.