We've all been there - we're in a heated row with our partner, or they're making more and more demands on us, and we quite simply would love to just not respond to them and look the other way.
Well, now, according to science, that's OK. According to a new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers have argued that there are certain times in lower income relationships when ignoring your spouse's demands is the right thing to do.
Lead author Jaclyn M. Ross said in a statement:
Consider this example: A wife requests that her husband ask for a raise at work.
For a husband in a low-wage job with less job security, that is a risky proposition.
By showing reluctance to ask for the raise [and thus withdrawing from her], he can preserve his self-esteem and lessen emphasis on the couple's vulnerable financial situation.
For a wealthier couple in the same situation, the wife may perceive that the husband is unwilling to make a sacrifice for his family and that can cause friction in the relationship.
The opposite is true of wealthier couples, the study found. Co-author Thomas N. Bradbury elaborated on this:
Even though it is easier for wealthier couples to access resources to address their relationship problems, it can also create higher expectations that partners will make accommodations for one another's demands and needs that underlie their problems.
But if those expectations are not met, rifts can occur in the relationship and exacerbate the existing problems.
Ross and her colleagues noted that previous studies into demand and withdraw behaviour had always focused on white, middle-class couples. Results of these studies had shown that this kind of behaviour could be beneficial for some couples, while it could be damaging for others.
They conducted two studies. One included 515 couples, with 40 per cent of them being under the poverty line. Over 18 months, researchers visited their houses, and asked what they'd change about their relationships.
Affluent couples who experienced demand and withdraw behaviour saw their relationship satisfaction decline overall, whereas less well off couples saw their relationship satisfaction decline when the husband did not withdraw.
The second involved 414 newlywed couples, who were observed over a period of 27 months. Again, they found that disadvantaged couples were less satisfied when husbands did not withdraw in the face of their wives' demands.
Commenting on the findings, Ross said:
Life circumstances may matter for relationships far more than we think - so much so that these circumstances appear to moderate the effects of communication on how happy we are in our partnerships.
Creating safe and secure environments helps to allow partners to relate well to each other and to their children, giving more people the kinds of relationships and families that will keep them healthy and happy.
But, before you go and ignore your partners, there are many factors that contribute to these findings still needing further research. The study focused purely on wives making demands on husbands. Despite looking at a more racially and ethnically diverse group, it also failed to look at same=sex couples or older couples.