Anyone who's been married a long time will tell you: If you want to keep the peace in your marriage, it’s better to be happy than right. In other words, keeping mum on the stuff the bugs you can go a long way with how well you and your spouse get along. However, researchers in New Zealand would beg to differ. In a recent, admittedly small-scale study (one couple), they asked a husband to agree with everything the wife said (without her knowing of this arrangement) and both had to score their daily quality of life on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest.
The experiment ended after just 12 days when the wife became increasingly hostile at her husband for everything he said or did, while the husband’s quality of life score dove from 7 to 3.
Conclusion: being happy and being agreeable don’t necessarily a good relationship make.
Therapist Michele Weiner-Davis, MSW, author of the book and web site Divorce Busting agrees, and with a much larger sample of couples. “I see couples teetering on the brink of divorce. The most common problem is that one learned long ago to stay quiet rather than disagree, allowing the other to become a bully or control freak. By the time they come to me, the quiet one has been simmering with resentment for years and finally blows up over something insignificant, blindsiding the other spouse. In the worst case scenario, the quiet one has found someone else and is ready to end the marriage.” But, unless the spouse who is quiet sees the error in being constantly agreeable, the chances of falling back into the same pattern are high, adds Weiner-Davis.
What she says emphatically is that always agreeing with your spouse is not only bad for the relationship, but to each of you individually. How?
"Everyone needs to feel heard—and that means being right at least some of the time. It’s how we’re validated on this earth. And feeling mutually heard is the glue that holds relationships together.“ Research shows that most couples will never agree on certain issues in their marriage," says Weiner-Davis. “But that doesn’t have to signal the death knell.”
“Healthy relationships are a fine balancing act,“ she says. The goal is not to be right—though that does feel good-- but rather for both spouses to feel heard and respected. That’s the real key to happiness.”
So what can you do if you're the silent partner?
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