When couples saw the event as clarifying where they stood with one another, with agreement about commitment, the relationship was likely to survive the difficulty.
Couples that broke up following the FBF, however, reported being surprised by several aspects of the conflict, including their partner's behavior.
When couples came out of the fight was increased doubts about the relationship and an unwillingness to discuss the issues, it generally spelled the beginning of the end for the romance.
The researchers explain, "Couples typically perceive differences in their beliefs, values and personalities early in their dating, but don't see a need to address them." As long as things are going well, why bring up potential problems?
But eventually a problem comes to the surface, often as the result of what one scholar called "cumulative annoyance" - the response to a "progressively increasing state of irritation."
The couples who broke up after the FBF were generally unable or unwilling to talk about their differences.
Couples who survived the FBF, on the other hand, con-fronted the problems directly, talking them over and working together to resolve difficult situations.
After the fight
The team that studied the "first big fight" came to several conclusions about the event.
First, the central issue affecting the FBF is commitment, both one's own commitment and the partner's.
Second, the FBF can both increase and reduce uncertainty about the relationship.
They found that among couples that survived the fight, the event often marked the first major expression of their commitment to the relationship.
Finally, and not surprisingly, these communication researchers concluded that what distinguished couples who survived the FBF, compared to those who didn't, was communication.
Unlike the "non-survivors," the survivors "generally believed that a successful relationship required a joint effort in problem-solving, some sacrifice from both parties, and the ability and/or willingness to adjust one's own way of doing things in order to mesh with the partner's way of doing things."
Not all relationships are meant to last. Sometimes we discover important differences with-out having to have a real fight.
And often couples discover that they have a commitment to each other without needing a major disagreement to bring it out.
But sooner or later, conflict will come.
And this study indicates that for couples who want the first big fight to be a step toward a better relationship, the key is in talking about the issues and how to resolve them together.
About the Author:
Daughter of Harlan Jacobsen, Janet edits both of our singles newspapers as well as Janet is currently completing her Doctorate at Arizona state university. www.singlelifecoach.com