Think Good Communication Helps Your Marriage? Think Again.
A new study says says good communication does not lead to marital satisfaction.
It's not quite so grim. What the study found was that it takes more than good communication (duh) to make a marriage successful.
"Although communication and satisfaction were correlated, communication wasn’t a good guide for determining partners’ satisfaction with their relationships over time,” says the study’s lead author Justin Lavner, an assistant professor in UGA’s clinical psychology program in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.
Although communication practices could predict satisfaction to some extent for some couples, the lack of a definitive causal relationship calls for additional attention to other factors that influence marital satisfaction, such as environmental stressors, what activities and interactions a couple has, and the personality traits of the individual partners.
"It’s absolutely right to say more satisfied couples do communicate more positively, as well as to say couples who communicate better on average are more satisfied,” he adds. “But it gives us a lot more pause to say that one caused the other one, which is really important. I think what this leaves us wondering is what are some of the other factors that matter for couples’ relationships and how these factors predict how couples do over time.”
Previous research and theories emphasized communication—or the lack thereof—as a predictor of marital satisfaction and even divorce. Lavner and his co-authors decided to look at whether communication was really a cause or if communication was a consequence of being satisfied, or was simply connected to it instead.
Researchers studied 400 low-income newlywed couples in Los Angeles in the three-year-long study, during which they were assessed four times. At each meeting, conducted in a couple’s home, participants would first complete three different tasks to gauge communication and then fill out a report on their satisfaction with their marriage.
The communication tasks were meant to determine whether the couple used positive, negative or effective communication while completing tasks such as picking a problem in their marriage and discussing how to rectify it.
“In general, the correlational findings were pretty strong, showing—as we kind of expect—the more satisfied you are, basically, the better you communicate with your spouse,” Lavner says. “What those results showed was that couples who were more satisfied also demonstrated higher levels of positivity, lower levels of negativity and more effectiveness.”
The authors were surprised, however, to see that there wasn’t a strong causal link showing that good