Beyond destructive conflict: Implications of marital tension for marital well-being.

The present study expanded upon existing literature to investigate a broader construct of negativity, marital tension, and its implications for marital well-being across the early years of marriage. Marital tension captures feelings of irritation, resentment, and disappointment surrounding the relationship, and is distinct from conflict and specific conflict strategies. Longitudinal data spanning 16 years from the Early Years of Marriage Study (n = 373 couples) were analyzed using actor-partner interdependence models. Competing hypotheses derived from the enduring dynamics and emergent distress models of marriage were tested using measures of both partners’ marital tension in Year 1 of marriage, as well as changes in marital tension from Year 1. Husbands and wives who reported greater marital tension in Year 1 of marriage, or showed increases in tension from Year 1, reported lower marital well-being. The link between respondents’ own Year 1 tension and marital well-being was strengthened by their partners’ reports of tension, but an amplification effect of both partners’ changes in marital tension was observed only among wives. These results persisted even after accounting for the influence of destructive conflict. Findings provide evidence for both models of marriage, indicating that negativity should be assessed more broadly, include both members of the couple, and recognize the critical role of early marital tension as well as increased tension for marital well-being. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)