If you’ve been in a long-term relationship before or you’re in one now, you know the bickering phase all too well. You and your partner get snippy and have arguments several times a day sometimes, and while they’re never really about anything serious and they’re no real threat to your relationship, it can make you wonder what’s going on. Thankfully, it won’t last forever.
Relationships change over time—it’s a fact. Researchers from the University of California Berkeley wanted to delve into the evolution of romantic relationships and monitored 87 heterosexual couples over a period of 13 years to do so. It’s worth noting that all of the couples were middle-aged or older. The younger couples had been married at least 15 years while the older ones had at least 35 years of marriage under their belts. They published their results in the journal Emotion.
The results show that humor trumps arguments in the long-term. That’s right, the longer couples had been together, the less likely they were to bicker and the more likely they were to laugh and see the bright side of things. That’s pretty encouraging!
It’s good to grow old together. That’s what the researchers find. Senior study author and psychology professor Robert Levenson explains, “Our findings shed light on one of the greatest paradoxes of late life. Despite experiencing the loss of friends and family, older people in stable marriages are relatively happy and experience low rates of depression and anxiety. Marriage has been good for their mental health.”
Basically, you get used to each other. One theory for why this happens is that the more time you spend with your partner, the more you get used to each other’s quirks, flaws, and bad habits. If they’re minor enough, you just learn to live with them rather than constantly arguing over something that’s not likely to change. In other words, you stop sweating the small stuff.
That said, bickering is totally normal. It’s a phase that most couples go through at some point in their relationship, but being able to navigate it successfully does lead to a more fulfilling relationship in the long-term. As relationship guru Sheela Mackintosh Stewart told The Independent, “Having ridden waves of unhappiness and survived the trials and tribulations of the buffer years, if the couples are determined to see the marriage through and are willing to compromise, then the marriages will sail through the later years. After years of shared experiences, they’re likely to be more accepting and appreciative of each other.” Sounds about right to me!
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