If You Fight This Particular Way, Prepare For Divorce

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If You Have Different Argument Styles, Prepare For Divorce
Heartbreak

Fight fire with fire.

Take a quick moment to reflect on the way that you and your partner, past or present, argue.

Do you both yell? Are you both more likely to storm away to cool off before hashing it out calmly? Or, does one of you want to talk while the other wants to brood in silence? 

According to research, couples are less likely to divorce if they approach arguments with a similar fighting style. And couples who fight differently are more likely to split. 

RELATED: Why Even Couples In Happy, Healthy Relationships Argue (And How They Do It The Right Way)

A 2010 University of Michigan study shows this correlation between mismatched argument styles and divorce. The study "is the largest and longest research projects to date, looking at the patterns of marital conflict in 373 couples over a 16-year period, starting with the first year of their marriages."

In aggravated situations, spouses were either constructive or destructive, and either opted to talk about the conflict or to withdraw from it.

"[Withdrawing] seems to have a damaging effect on the longevity of marriage," said a researcher on the study, Kira Birditt. "Spouses who deal with conflicts constructively may view their partners' habit of withdrawing as a lack of investment in the relationship rather than an attempt to cool down."

Of the 373 couples included in the study, 46 percent of them divorced. The couples where both partners had used constructive arguing styles had a lower divorce rate. 

Researchers found that, "husbands reported more constructive behaviors and fewer destructive behaviors than wives. But over time, wives were less likely to use destructive strategies or withdraw, while husbands' use of these behaviors stayed the same through the years."

RELATED: 8 Essential Do's & Don'ts For Having Productive Arguments (And A Long, Happy Relationship)

In other words, the way that a woman argues tends to evolve, while a man's fighting style is likely to remain static.

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Birditt says, "The problems that cause wives to withdraw or use destructive behaviors early in a marriage may be resolved over time. Or, relationships and the quality of relationships may be more central to women's lives than they are to men.

As a result, over the course of marriage, women may be more likely to recognize that withdrawing from conflict or using destructive strategies is neither effective nor beneficial to the overall well-being and stability of their marriages."

She concluded by saying, "We hope this study will lead to additional research on the complex dynamics of conflict between husbands and wives, and the potential explanations for changes versus stability in conflict behaviors over time." 

But if this describes you and your spouse, don't panic.

Once you realize how unhealthy that destructive behavior can be, you can change. A partnership lasts when the two of you communicate, and no one is saying that communication has to happen right away.

If one of you needs to retreat, maybe the other partner can learn to do the same before you reconvene and hash out what started your fight in the first place.

RELATED: How To Stop Having The Same Fight With Your Husband (Over & Over Again)

Stephanie Castillo is a writer whose work has been featured in Prevention, Women's Health, and more.

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Editor's Note: This article was originally posted in October 2010 and was updated with the latest information.

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