No relationship is without conflict, from minor quarrels over taking out the garbage to major disagreements about money. But fighting itself doesn’t have to spell disaster. Instead, it’s how a couple views their relationship that affects whether conflict hurts or is no big deal.
There are all sorts of ways for couples to think and talk about their relationship. Some see themselves as soul mates, believing they were made for each other. For others, a relationship is a life-long journey with ups and downs. They believe that sticking together means being there through thick and thin.
Pick a frame
Psychologists describe the way lovers view their romance as a ‘frame’. The frame they choose could determine whether the relationship lasts a lifetime or is doomed to fail, recent Canadian research has found.
In a series of studies, the researchers gave couples reasons to believe in one of two ‘frames’. Then they were asked how they felt when conflict came up in their real-life relationship or in an imaginary one.
Couples who believe in the first frame – that they’re soul mates – have a worse time when the going gets tough, the research showed. They feel like a fight is a total relationship meltdown. They tend to think, ‘Hey, if we were really meant for each other, we would never fight!’
But for a couple who thinks of their relationship as a journey, fights are just obstacles to overcome on the way. These couples believe their relationship grows stronger as a result. In fact, say the researchers, people with this outlook are just as satisfied with their relationship after a fight as they are after a celebration!
Get the attitude
Feel like your romantic dreams of grand passion are shattered? Well, actually this research is pretty great news for couples everywhere. It means that just by changing your attitude to your relationship, you can improve your chances of staying happy together in the long term.
And if you’re looking for love, don’t go searching for a soul mate. Love is a journey, and 'made for each other' is a dead end.
Have you broken up with someone you regarded as your soul mate? Leave a comment below or join the discussion on Facebook.