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A happy marriage may depend on a wife being able to calm down after a heated argument. But a husband's ability to cool off after a fight has little to no bearing on long-term marital satisfaction, a new study suggests.
Researchers looked at how more than 80 middle-aged and older heterosexual couples recovered from disagreements, and found that both spouses were equally able to settle down following a conflict.
Marriages in which wives quickly calmed down after a dispute, however, were the happiest in both the short- and long-term, according to the study, which was published online Nov. 4 in the journal Emotion.
"When it comes to managing negative emotion during conflict, wives really matter," study author Lian Bloch, an assistant professor at the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology, said in a news release from the University of California, Berkeley.
"Emotions such as anger and contempt can seem very threatening for couples," she said. "But our study suggests that if spouses -- especially wives -- are able to calm themselves, their marriages can continue to thrive."
Women are widely viewed as the caretakers and peacemakers in relationships, the researchers said, but this study is among the first to examine this effect over a long period of time.
The link between wives' ability to control emotions and greater marital satisfaction was most evident when women used "constructive communication" to cool disagreements, study senior author Robert Levenson said in the news release.
"When wives discuss problems and suggest solutions, it helps couples deal with conflicts," said Levenson, a psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley. "Ironically, this may not work so well for husbands, who wives often criticize for leaping into problem-solving mode too quickly."
The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy offers advice on marriage preparation.