Potheads, listen up — before your relationship goes up in smoke.
Those who consume the herb may be a little too chill when it comes to navigating conflict with their romantic partners, according to new findings published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
A survey of couples found that cannabis users were more withdrawn and negative amid conflict with their partners while also more unaware of how poorly they manage those issues.
Sociological researchers at Rutgers University and Mount Holyoke College wanted to learn more about the ways cannabis use affects how we relate to one another.
“We looked at different 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,” author Jessica Salvatore, an associate professor in the department of psychiatry at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, said in a statement.
Their investigation included 145 couples in which at least one partner uses cannabis, interviewing them individually and together on the topics of both drug habits and relationship satisfaction.
Researchers took their experiments to the next level by also measuring their physiological stress responses, such as heart rate and respiration, while couples spent 10 minutes discussing one of their biggest sources of conflict.
They were also asked to talk about subjects of common interest for 5 minutes and, at the end of their session, rate how well each thought they approached conflict resolution.
Trained behavioral readers also watched footage of the couples, analyzing for physical cues that reveal their tendency to avoid responsibility — deflection, skirting and ignoring — or to engage in negative tactics — such as making demands, criticizing and blaming. Overall, their conversations were rated on a scale, with those who failed to make substantive contributions to discussions rating lower, while participants who responded affirmatively and constructively and showed signs of active listening rated more highly.
“The assessments by the cannabis users were almost the exact opposite of what independent raters found,” said Salvatore, who found that cannabis users were less flexible and willing to compromise — yet, paradoxically, also reported higher satisfaction with the outcomes of arguments with their partners, while lacking the self-awareness to recognize their adverse engagement.
Salvatore noted that their findings should not be used as an endorsement against the use of cannabis altogether, as some studies have found that it can have its benefits in relationships and sex. “Rather,” she said, “it gives insight into how couples can better navigate conflict and come to a resolution.
“When you don’t see problems, you can’t solve them,” she emphasized.