Staying angry at spouse sometimes healthy

August 06, 2012|By Meredith Cohn

Sometimes holding onto a little anger after a marital spat is healthy, according to new research.

Expressing the anger might be necessary to move past it, said James McNulty of Florida State University, who was investigating “positive psychology.”

He said an honest conversation that is uncomfortable benefits the long-term health of the relationship.

He said research in recent years had suggested forgiveness, optimism, kindness and positive thinking can save relationships after serious transgressions. But he said, “I continued to find evidence that thoughts and behaviors presumed to be associated with better well-being lead to worse well-being among some people – usually the people who need the most help achieving well-being.”

He said the anger can show the un-supportive, irresponsible or cheating spouse that the transgression was not acceptable.  So, temporarily withholding forgiveness in some circumstances can have benefits, expecially if it leads to a discussion.

But he said, there’s no way to say at which moments this helps most.

“This work suggests people need to be flexible in how they address the problems that will inevitably arise over the course of their relationships,” McNulty said in a statement. “There is no 'magic bullet,' no single way to think or behave in a relationship. The consequences of each decision we make in our relationships depends on the circumstances that surround that decision.”

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