A study on marital conflict conducted at UC Berkeley found that wives tend to hold more power when it comes to resolving disagreements with their spouse. So, what’s the key to unlocking this secret lady problem-solving skill? Calming down. Yep, it’s that simple, all you need to do is relinquish all your bad feels and take solace in the fact that you are facilitating the perfect illusion of marital bliss by muting all those pesky negative emotions. Women have long been held in high regard as peacemakers, we are the “fairer sex,” after all. This isn’t to say that men are less capable when it comes to smoothing things out, it’s just that their efforts to do so are less impactful than their wives, because women apparently have black belts in grudge holding, and men are innately calm even in the heat of being detrimentally insensitive.
Lian Bloch and Robert Levenson, the psychologists who led the study, published their findings last November in the online psychology journal, Emotion. The study focuses on the long-term marital happiness of middle-aged and older heterosexual couples, and has been tracking the progress of 156 couples since 1989. It allowed a closer look into the traditional roles of men and women within marriage. While women are commonly portrayed as caretakers, the research attempted to shed light on why that role was important when it came to the longevity and quality of marriage.
Essentially, the study revealed that, among married couples, the ability to calm down after a heated argument was equally attainable by both husbands and wives, but the effect this has on the overall health and future of the relationship is more evident when achieved by women. Researchers claim that managing emotions during and after a conflict is a valuable skill for both partners when it comes to resolving issues, but when wives fail to do so it has a higher risk for creating feelings of contempt and resentment that negatively impact their marriage.
Of course, this idea reinforces the rather debilitating stereotype that women are perpetually ruled by emotion, requiring special attention from men to help regulate their feelings. One of the coauthors on the study, Claudia Haase, points out that age plays a big factor in the way couples manage conflict, and speculates that the data collected will likely change as younger generations are introduced into the research observations. “The middle-aged and older couples in our study grew up in a world that treated men and women very differently,” she said. “It will be interesting to see how these gender dynamics play out in younger couples.”
The efforts of the feminist movement have highlighted the divide between traditional gender roles and their gradual dissolve into modern day society. Today, men are being encouraged to take more accountability for their emotions, instead of resorting to bottling up their feelings and inevitably exploding with rage and placing the responsibility to quell their outbursts onto their female partners. The younger generation of women are taught to embrace their independence more than ever, and their lives are no longer valued simply by the romantic involvement of a man. The future of gender equality is opening up the emotional playing field for men, instead of relegating women to the role of delicate flowers teetering between logic and hysteria at all times. Marriages that find the balance between mutual respect and acknowledgment of both partner’s feelings will be the most successful in the future, not the ones that utilize one-sided placation and respond dismissively to the other’s emotions.