More Power, Not Apologies Sought When Couples Fight
July 9, 2013

More Power, Not Apologies Sought When Couples Fight

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

According to a new Baylor University study, your partner would rather gain a little more power in the relationship than an apology.

Researchers wrote in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology the most common thing couples want from each other is a willingness to relinquish power, such as giving a partner more independence, admitting faults, showing respect or being willing to compromise.

"It's common for partners to be sensitive to how to share power and control when making decisions in their relationship," said researcher Keith Sanford, PhD, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience in Baylor University's College of Arts & Sciences.

Sanford said aside from partners wanting more power in the relationship, they also wanted the significant other to show more of an investment in the relationship through ways of sharing intimate thoughts or feelings, listening and sharing chores and activities.

The team's results are based on two studies of married or cohabitating people that included over 900 participants. In the first study, 455 married participants were asked to independently list desired resolutions to a single current or ongoing conflict.

The team identified 28 categories and organized them into six all-encompassing types of desired resolution. The final categories included: showing investment; stopping adversarial behavior; communicating more; giving affection; and making an apology. The most likely thing a participant said they wanted their partner to do in the first study was to show investment, while the least likely was to make an apology.

"We definitely respond to whether we gain or lose status," Sanford said. "When we feel criticized, we are likely to have underlying concerns about a perceived threat to status, and when that happens, we usually want a partner simply to disengage and back off."

Participants in the second study completed a 28-item questionnaire measuring how much people wanted each of the categories of desired resolution that were identified in the first study. The people in this study did not take part in the first, but were still in committed relationships.

"The things couples want from each other during conflicts will depend on their underlying concerns, and to resolve conflicts, they may need to use different tactics to address different underlying concerns," he said. "The husband might buy flowers, and that might be helpful if his partner has a concern involving perceived neglect. But if the partner has a concern involving perceived threat, then the flowers won't do much to address the issue."

Another study published earlier this month found older couples are better at avoiding conflict than younger ones. Researchers from San Francisco State University reported couples who had been married longer were better at diverting attention from a "toxic" subject.