Conflict Resolution: The Key to a Happy Relationship

November 4, 2019

Conflict often leads to disagreement, but it doesn’t always have to happen with people you don’t get along with. Most conflicts occur with the people you love—including your parents, siblings, friends, and even your significant other. Conflict is inevitable, which is why even those in happy relationships argue.

Although couples argue about various issues, the most common are money, in-laws, intimacy, and children. The subject of conflict may be the same among all couples, with happy couples often resolving their issues in a way that makes a huge difference.

Associate Professor of Family and Child Studies, Amy Rauer, along with three colleagues, observed two separate samples of couples who describe themselves as happily married. One set included 57 couples in their mid- to late thirties who reported to be married for an average of nine years. The other sample set was comprised of 64 couples in their early 70s who had been married for an average of 42 years.

Both groups similarly ranked a series of issues from most to least serious:

  1. Intimacy
  2. Leisure
  3. Household
  4. Communication
  5. Money
  6. Health (for older couples)
  7. Jealousy
  8. Religion
  9. Family

When Rauer and colleagues observed how the couples discussed marital problems, they noticed that all of them focused on issues with clear solutions. For example, if the problem had to do with household chores, the solution would be to re-distribute household labour.

Essentially, these couples took a solution-oriented approach when addressing the issues they had with each other.

Partners discussing their concerns and communicating is important, but the researchers noted that the happy couples rarely chose to argue about issues that were difficult to resolve.

Amy Rauer stated, “Focusing on the perpetual, more-difficult-to-solve problems may undermine partners’ confidence in the relationship”. That is why the couples chose to focus on more solvable problems as a way to build a sense of security in their relationship. Once they can uncover a solution to a more solvable problem, both partners may have the confidence to tackle issues that are more challenging.

The researchers also discovered that couples who were married longer argued less and reported fewer serious issues. This is consistent with research conducted in the past, which suggests that the longer the relationship, the more likely partners are to prioritize their marriage over fighting and decide that some subjects are not worthwhile.

Ultimately, the key to a long-lasting and happy relationship seems to be simple. Partners must successfully differentiate between issues that need to be resolved immediately and those they can put aside for another time. In other words, pick and choose your battles!


UT Study: How Happy Couples Argue. Retrieved from: