Couples argue just as much as they get older

The degree to which two people in a relationship argue is unlikely to vary significantly over a length of time. This is the finding of new research published in the Journal of Family Issues, which showed married couples do not tend to have greater or lesser levels of conflict across a period of 20 years.

As part of the study, nearly 1,000 pairings were followed for two decades and Claire Kamp Dush, Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Science at Ohio State University - established in 1870 - noted behavioural differences over this time were small.

In addition, Ms Kamp Dush and Miles Taylor of Florida State University discovered people in low-conflict marriages were more likely to share decision-making with their partners than those who often disagreed.

Ms Kamp Dush noted: "It may be that if both spouses have a say in decision making, they are more satisfied with their relationship and are less likely to fight."

Dr Lucy Atcheson, a Chartered Psychologist and Full Member of the Society's Division of Counselling Psychology, commented: "This seems to be true - couples set parameters of acceptable communication styles and this sets unconscious scripts. It is possible to change these but it requires a lot of conscious effort.

"Less expressed conflict tends to encourage more supportive secure relationships. Highly volatile relationships often increase the couple's insecurities.

"Couples who show each other respect and kindness even in arguments tend to feel happier in their relationships.

"Highly verbally aggressive arguments eat away at self esteem and cause resentments. This resentment causes a vicious circle as it creates tension, which increases the likelihood and frequency of arguments which maintains conflict levels.

"Effort is required to decrease and resolve the resentment and tension and decrease conflict frequency and decrease the exhibited verbal aggression during the argument. Empathic communication is vital even in arguments."