Arguing with a partner is beneficial when both feel understood, say psychologists

Showing understanding makes people feel their partner is invested

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Arguing in a relationship is not often seen as having a positive impact on both partners.

But a new study from US psychologists suggests that if each party feels understood, falling out does not have a detrimental impact on their satisfaction in the relationship.

Researchers at the University of California said feeling understood appeared to improve a relationship on its own, regardless of any practical consequence of that understanding.

And when people felt their partners understood them, the conflict was not only not harmful but actually good for the relationship.

"Evidence [...] suggests that feeling understood during conflict may buffer against reduced relationship satisfaction, in part because it strengthens the relationship and signals one's partner is invested," said study authors Amie Gordon and Serena Chen.

"These studies suggest that perceived understanding may be a critical buffer against the potentially detrimental effects of relationship conflict."

The psychologists at the University of California conducted studies with participants in their 20s and 30s who were in relationships at least six months old.

Partners who frequently argued reported lower satisfaction in their relationships, unless where they also felt their partner understood them, according to the authors.

Indeed, participants rated their relationship more highly after a conflict if they felt understood, than before the conflict.

This also had a knock-on effect for the other partner, who felt happier when they thought their other half felt understood.

The authors of the study said each partner might feel like the other was more invested in the relationship when they made an effort to understand.

The findings were published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.