Washington: The most common thing that couples want from each other during a conflict is not an apology, but a willingness to give up power, says a study. Giving up power comes in many forms. Giving a partner more independence, admitting faults, showing respect and being willing to compromise are most common among them.

"It's common for partners to be sensitive to how to share power and control when making decisions in their relationship," said researcher Keith Sanford, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience in Baylor University's College of Arts & Sciences.

Following closely behind the desire for shared control was the wish for the partner to show more of an investment in the relationship through such ways as sharing intimate thoughts or feelings, listening, sharing chores and activities, Sanford said.

The research results are based on two studies of married or cohabitating people and build upon previous research by Sanford. Earlier studies of more than 3,500 married people found that there are just two basic types of underlying concerns that couples experience during conflicts: perceived threat, in which a person thinks that his or her status is threatened by a critical or demanding partner; and perceived neglect, in which an individual sees a partner as being disloyal or inattentive and showing a lack of investment in the relationship.

In the first of the new studies, 455 married participants (ages 18 to 77, with marriages ranging from less than one year to 55 years) were asked to independently list desired resolutions to a single current or ongoing conflict.

From those answers, 28 individual categories were identified, which researchers organized into six all-encompassing types of desired resolution. After relinquished power, the desired behaviours from one's partner from most to least common were to show investment and stop adversarial behaviour, to communicate more, to give affection and to make an apology.

"We definitely respond to whether we gain or lose status. When we feel criticized, we are likely to have underlying concerns about a perceived threat to status, and when that happens, we usually want a partner simply to disengage and back off," Sanford said.

In a second study, participants completed a 28-item questionnaire measuring how much people wanted each of the categories of desired resolution that were identified in the first study. This study included 498 participants (ages ranging from 19 to 81, with length of marriage ranging from less than one year to 51 years). The findings were consistent with the first study results, Sanford said.

The study was published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.

(Agencies)

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