Friday, February 19, 2010

Fight More, Bore Less

Linda Carroll wrote a nice piece for MSNBC that belongs in the category of counter intuitive research.

Is boredom really worse than fighting in a marriage?

According to Carroll, experts say that shared challenges and exciting diversions are what make relationships interesting long after the wedding gown has been packed up and stored away. And the opposite, boredom and a dull, daily routine, can kill a marriage, squashing intimacy and romance.

Most research on long-term relationships has focused on eliminating problems such as conflict and tension, explains the new study’s lead author, Irene Tsapelas, a researcher in the psychology department at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. But surveys have suggested that boredom may be even more corrosive to a relationship, she adds.

123 Michigan couples (the first marriage for all of them)were interviewed for the study at year zero, year seven, and year 16 of the marriage (not a big sample, but I like the time intervals - author).

Carroll quotes Helen Fisher (research professor of anthropology at Rutgers University) which is always a good idea. And quoting Fisher usually means mentioning the neurotransmitter called dopamine.

People often show up in Dr. Barbara Bartlik’s office ready to bolt from a marriage because they’re bored. “I tell them that changing partners isn’t going to fix the boredom,” says Bartlik, assistant professor of psychiatry at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. “By sharing novel or exciting experiences with your partner, you’re duplicating some of the brain chemistry that fires up at the beginning of a relationship.”

(It goes without saying, which means that I am about to say it anyway.....that I don't advise couples to fight as a way of building a healthy marriage. Click here to see an earlier post describing the research of Dr. John Gottman. He indicates that each normal healthy marriage comes along with a package of irresolvable issues, such as division of household tasks and differences in approaches to child rearing. The key to a good marriage is not the resolution of conflict but rather the regulation of conflict, according to Gottman.)