Couples are known to “agree to disagree” on several things: My partner abhors astrology but accepts my horoscope hobby, for example, while I loathe sports but tolerate his fervent fondness for football. Others argue over which one of them truly hogs the blankets, while some insist they do most of the cleaning around the house — as their spouse asserts the same of themselves.
“Research shows that people rarely talk about climate change with their friends and family even if they care deeply about it themselves,” Matthew Goldberg, a research scientist at Yale University’s Program on Climate Change Communication, told The Daily Beast. And according to his recent study, the same goes for romantic partners.
Last month, Goldberg and a team of researchers examined 756 couples’ ideas on climate change, querying both members of each couple about their beliefs and behaviours. Individuals’ “beliefs” considered whether they believed climate change was truly happening, is caused by humans, how much it concerns them and how much it matters to them personally, while “behaviours” looked at how often they signed petitions, donated to climate-change nonprofits and/or posted about it online.
Only 38 percent of couples surveyed had a “correspondence” of beliefs — meaning that their ideologies were similar — and 31 percent of couples’ climate behaviour were comparable. What’s more, most participants were quite off regarding their own partners’ beliefs, with only 32 percent of couples assuming correctly.
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In a follow-up analysis, the researchers queried couples on whether they were alarmed, concerned, cautious, disengaged, doubtful, or dismissive. Couples were found to be in the same category 47 percent of the time, but many had at least one member who was significantly more “alarmed” about climate change than the other.
But while this may seem concerning, it’s not too late to have “the talk” — and, these findings bode well for partners hoping to positively influence their other halves.
“It makes sense that people weren’t perfectly aligned with their partners because the topic is likely not discussed very often, if at all,” Goldberg said, via The Daily Beast. “When we found that it was common for one partner to be alarmed about climate change and the other partner only moderately concerned, that showed us that there is indeed substantial room for pro-climate influence among romantic partners.”
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“People feel like they shouldn’t talk about [climate change] because they don’t want to start an argument,” Goldberg continued. “As we saw in our results, though, couples were substantially more accurate in understanding one another when they reported that they discussed the issue. That tells us that discussion can be the mechanism by which one partner influences another.”