What spats say about your marriage

If your partner is angry, you are likely to miss the fact that your partner might also be feeling sad

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Fights reveal the health of your relationships

Spats are a part and parcel of married life. When two people live together, there's bound to be friction with tempers flying. However, the anger is telling... if you really pay attention. A study by Baylor University researcher found that in a marital spat over trivial matters often the angrier partner is not always angry just at the matter at hand. The person is more often than has been angry over things from quite some time.

"I found that people were most likely to express anger, not in the moments where they felt most angry, but rather in the situations where there was an overall climate of anger in their relationship—situations where both partners had been feeling angry over a period of time," said Keith Sanford, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience in Baylor University's College of Arts & Sciences.

"This means that if a couple falls into a climate of anger, they tend to continue expressing anger regardless of how they actually feel . . . It becomes a kind of a trap they cannot escape."

And the issues that might lead the anger to fester are: in-laws, chores, money, affection and time spent on the computer.

Also, often the anger is a way of expressing sadness. Unfortunately, "if your partner is angry, you are likely to miss the fact that your partner might also be feeling sad," said Sanford. "When it comes to perceiving emotion in a partner, anger trumps sadness," he said.

Research has shown that if a partner expresses sadness during a conflict, it can bring the couple together. "A take-home message is that there may be times where it is beneficial to express feelings of sadness during conflict, but sad feelings are most likely to be noticed if you are not simultaneously expressing anger," Sanford said.

The study, "The Communication of Emotion During Conflict in Married Couples" —is published online in the American Psychological Association's Journal of Family Psychology.
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