A study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that cannabis users may think they have healthy approaches to managing conflict with partners, but scientific observation has suggested otherwise. Researchers from Rutgers University and Mount Holyoke College collaborated to understand how cannabis use might affect a person’s ability to sense relationship tensions. They examined three main indicators of relationship functioning: how satisfied and committed people felt about their relationship, their behavior and physiology during a laboratory-based conflict interaction, and their perceptions about their conflict discussion and relationship afterward. The study found that cannabis users were less likely to acknowledge signs of relationship trouble and held inaccurate perceptions of relationship functioning.
The study included 145 couples who were asked to report cannabis use frequency and relationship satisfaction. The researchers videotaped couples discussing a topic that they categorized as a major source of conflict. The team monitored their heart rate and respiration during the ten-minute discussion in order to assess participants’ physiological stress response. The couples then discussed points of agreement. This step was followed by researchers asking how they thought the conversations went and how satisfied they were with conflict resolution.
Trained raters assessed each partner’s conflict behavior, including avoidance (deflecting, skirting, or ignoring areas of disagreement) and negative engagement (criticizing, blaming, or demanding change) on separate five-point scales. A separate set of raters assessed the partners’ capability to transition out of conflict toward a discussion of agreements and relationship strengths. Lower scores were assigned when participants made few or no substantive comments during the discussion of the relationship’s strengths. Higher scores meant the participants elaborated on points of shared perceptions about conflict discussion patterns, affirmed positive aspects of the relationship, or responded to their partner’s suggestions.
Participants who used cannabis more frequently believe that they have effective relationship skills, but the research study showed that they are less cognizant or receptive to stressors in the relationship. Cannabis users tended to avoid conflict during the discussion. They were also less able to reorient themselves to a discussion about the positive aspects of their relationship. However, cannabis users expressed satisfaction with how the conflict was resolved and they did not believe they used avoidance strategies.
This study offers valuable insights into identifying problematic aspects of a relationship impacted by cannabis use of one or both partners and finding productive conflict resolution strategies.
Source: Drug and Alcohol Dependence