Study examines why ambivalence is harmful to a marriage

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines ambivalence as being “simultaneous and contradictory attitudes or feelings toward an object, person or action.” While feeling ambivalent may be an appropriate reaction to thinking about going camping or attending a work conference; when it comes to personal relationships, such feelings can be harmful.

When two people meet and fall in love, they genuinely find each another interesting and want to know everything about one another. However, with time often comes a certain level of comfort and complacency which, in some cases, can manifest into or be interpreted by a significant other as ambivalence. According to a recent study that was conducted by researchers at Brigham Young University, when feelings of ambivalence dominate a marriage, spouses are more likely to feel unhappy and stressed out.

For the study, researchers worked to identify married couples who fell into the ambivalent category. These couples were then asked to answer behavior-related questions about their spouses and marriage with regard to the frequency with which they experience feelings of ambivalence. Throughout the questioning, the blood pressure rates of study participants were taken and researchers noted a direct correlation between ambivalence and higher blood pressure rates.

Everyone wants and needs to be loved and appreciated. In a marriage where two individuals have pledged to share their lives together, it’s important that spouses are supportive of one another through both the good and bad times. Therefore, in cases where a married individual is never sure whether a spouse will react negatively or positively to a certain event or news, he or she is likely to feel unsettled, disappointed and stressed out.

Individuals who don’t feel that a spouse is supportive or 100 percent in their corner, may ultimately come to realize that they aren’t happy in a marriage. At times, counseling can help couples identify problem areas and reconnect. In other cases, divorce may truly be the best option for everyone involved.

Source:, “‘Frenemy’ marriages harmful to health, BYU study reveals,” Jessica Ivins, Oct. 14, 2015