People who are unhappy in their romantic relationship spend more time during a disagreement thinking about how angry and frustrated they are, but happy couples coordinate their thoughts so that when one partner has many emotional thoughts, the other has few, according to a new study recently published online in the National Communication Association’s journal, Communication Monographs.
“Among happy couples, when one partner is thinking a lot about disagreement or anger, the other instead may be thinking about how to understand his or her partner or how to resolve the conflict,” said lead investigator Anita Vangelisti, Ph.D., professor of communication at the University of Texas at Austin.
The findings, Vangelisti said, show that people’s thoughts during a conflict situation reflect and shape their own relationship satisfaction and can even affect how happy their partner is.
Vangelisti and her colleagues studied 71 young unmarried heterosexual couples in Texas, who had been together an average of three years. Each person was encouraged to privately express his or her thoughts aloud to a researcher while in a separate room from the other partner and while communicating about a topic of conflict with the partner via a computer chat program. The chat program showed the person’s typed messages in one section and the partner’s replies and messages in another section, but did not display the person’s vocalized thoughts, which were tape recorded.
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