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Keep bickering with your partner while isolating? Here’s why you don’t need to worry

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Megan Murray
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Living with your partner in quarantine? You won’t be the only ones starting to bicker your way through the day. Here’s why it’s totally normal and won’t last forever. 

The UK is officially in lockdown for three weeks, which means if you live with your partner, they might be the only person you see for the best part of a month. Even the strongest couples, is a lot to deal with.

Being with someone every moment of the day – especially when you’re trapped inside – can lead to a bit of bickering. But don’t worry, it’s totally normal.

According to research from the University of California, Berkeley, bickering is normal at the beginning of a relationship and the conversation pattern usually changes over time. Isolation is a unique environment for your relationship to survive in, and in some ways it’s like experiencing new, unknown territory together.

Researchers videotaped conversations between 87 middle-aged and elderly married couples, all of whom had been married between 15 to 35 years, as well as tracking their “emotional interactions” over 13 years. And they found that “as couples aged, they showed more humour and tenderness towards each other”. 

Worried about bickering with your partner?
Defensiveness and criticism also decreased over the years – which researchers say challenges the view that emotions flatten or decrease over age. 

“Our findings shed light on one of the great paradoxes of late life,” said senior author Robert Levenson. “Despite experiencing the loss of friends and family, older people in stable marriages are relatively happy and experience low rates of depression and anxiety. Marriage has been good for their mental health.”

And co-author Alice Verstaen said that the findings “underscore the importance of intimate relationships as people age, and the potential health benefits associated with marriage”. 

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Researchers have been tracking the couples, all of whom live in San Francisco, since the late 1980s. Listening and speaking behaviours were “coded and rated according to their facial expressions, body language, verbal content and tone of voice”, and emotions were categorised into “anger, contempt, disgust, domineering behaviour, defensiveness, fear, tension, sadness, whining, interest, affection, humour, enthusiasm and validation.”

“These results provide behavioural evidence that is consistent with research suggesting that, as we age, we become more focused on the positives in our lives,” Verstaen said.

So, if quarantine all feels a bit much right now, remember that once you’ve got used to it your bickering is likely to subside and you might even be laughing about it before long. 

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Please be aware that this article was originally published on 4 December 2018, but has been updated throughout to include new information. 

Image: Unsplash / Getty

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.

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