A survey by Rutgers University, in the United States, shows that people who use marijuana have difficulty understanding exactly what the status of their love relationship is and are less aware of their own toxic behaviors.

The study, published this week in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, is one of the first to try to understand what relationship dynamics look like when one or both parties use the drug.

A total of 145 couples participated in the survey. All responded how often they used marijuana (some people did not use the drug) and whether they were satisfied with the relationship. Afterwards, each pair was recorded during a 10-minute discussion on a topic identified by both as a source of conflict, followed by a 5-minute conversation about topics that they agreed on.

Scientists measured the couple’s heart rate and breathing during the experiment, and the interaction was observed by behavioral experts. Two of them were responsible for tracking one partner’s reactions, including when they avoid conflict and “negative engagement” (when one person demands change, criticizes or blames the other).

Another two paid attention to each other’s ability to move out of conflict, no matter the conclusion, and shift to a positive issue. After the conversations, each person reported how they thought the conversation went, and how satisfied they were with the conflict resolution.

less productive DRs

The researchers found that people who used marijuana were less able to flex their stress response, criticized more, made more demands, avoided conflict, and had more difficulty reorienting themselves after the negative discussion.

Paradoxically, these individuals said they were more satisfied with the resolution of the conflict, and did not perceive their own demands or attempts to deviate from the subject.

“Cannabis users’ ratings were almost the exact opposite of what independent raters found,” study author and psychiatrist Jessica Salvatore explains to the university’s website.

Despite the results, the researcher says the conclusion is not about whether marijuana use is good or bad for relationships. The idea is to understand how the parties of a couple can navigate conflicts. “When you don’t see problems, you can’t solve them,” she says.

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