More Information About Dr. Prager's work
Research on Conflict Reconciliation & Intimacy in Couple Relationships
A recent National Opinion Research Survey tells us that, once our survival needs are met, no single aspect of our lives contributes more to our satisfaction with life or to our sense of psychological well-being than our intimate relationships. Yet despite our best efforts, the seeds of relationship demise are often visible from the very beginning of a relationship.
How a couple recovers from conflict is as important to the ongoing functioning of their relationship as is their behavior during conflict. In order to sustain a high level of intimacy and satisfaction over many years and through many disagreements, a couple must be able to come back together after a conflict and reestablish their intimate bond. Recent research (Salvatore, Chun Kuo, Steele, Simpson, and Collins, 2011) affirms that having a partner who is better at conflict recovery is associated with experiencing more positive relationship emotions and greater relationship satisfaction. Evidence abounds demonstrating the significance of how the partners talk to one another and how they manage their problem-solving efforts (Bradbury, Fincham, & Beach, 2000). Less information is available about how couples reconcile emotionally following conflict, and how quickly.
The Couples Daily Lives Study examines day-to-day couple conflict and intimacy as they affect partners' relationship satisfaction. We are especially interested in how couples reconcile emotionally after conflict, and the impact of their reconciliation efforts on the health of their relationship. We are guided in our research by attachment theory, which predicts that a secure attachment between relationship partners softens the impact of conflict and reduces the amount of time the couple needs to recover from conflict.
We are also interested in psychological differentiation as a predictor of successful intimate relating, relationship satisfaction, and attachment security. Individuals who are "differentiated," to use Murray Bowen's term, are able to function independently, avoid monitoring their partners too closely, uphold relational intimacy, treat themselves and their partners' needs with respect and concern, and avoid excessive emotional volatility. According to Bowen, differentiation is the result of a clear psychological separation between one's own will and the other's, and a willingness to perceive and respect both self and other while still maintaining an intimate relationship. Whether psychological differentiation is a single indicator of psychological maturity, or whether it is a combination of several characteristics, each of which makes an independent contribution to relationship functioning, has yet to be discovered.