Your sweetheart turns increasingly irritating and demanding as you age, while you turn closer to children and best friends; this is what a research made at the University of Michigan found in an investigation made on over 800 adults aged 20 and older (young, middle-aged and older) and presented at the annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America.
"Viewing our spouses more negatively over time may not be all bad. In fact, it might even be, well, positive. As we age, and become closer and more comfortable with one another, it could be that we're more able to express ourselves to each other. In other words, it's possible that negativity is a normal aspect of close relationships that include a great deal of daily contact," said co-author Kira Birditt, a research fellow at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR).
The subjects were firstly interviewed in 1992 and again in 2005; they were asked about the negativity of their relationships with three main characters in their lives: their spouse/partner, a child, and a best friend. The subjects rated how much they agreed/disagreed two statements: "My (spouse/partner, child, friend) gets on my nerves" and "My (spouse/partner, child, friend) makes too many demands on me." Those aged 60 and plus had the least negative relationships with the others.
"This finding is consistent with other research showing that older adults are likely to report less conflict than do younger adults in their relationships," said Birditt.
Those in their 20s and 30s had the most negative relationships overall, while in the group of adults aged 40 to 60, the spouse/partner was seen as the most negative and the negative tendency increased in time.
"The increases in negativity over time may be indicative of learned patterns of interaction which have been reinforced and tend to persist over time. Other studies have found that negative communication increases over time and relationship quality decreases, especially after having children. Interestingly, as relationships with spouses become more negative, relationships with children and friends appear to become less demanding and irritating over time," said Birditt.
"How we respond to negativity in close relationships affects every aspect of our lives - at work and at home. One thing I'm interested in exploring is how avoidance affects negativity over time. We know that older adults are more likely than younger people to report that they try to deal with conflict by avoiding confrontations, rather than by discussing problems. That may be another reason that negativity tends to increase over time in the relationship with a partner or spouse - when you're living together, it's a lot harder to avoid each other," she added.