Studies: Temperature Preference a Source of Marital Conflict

  • Research has indicated that couples can be pushed over the edge by their differences in preference of room temperature.
  • Biologically speaking, there are reasons behind the differences in preferences in room temperature for men and women.
  • The conflict can often arise due to one spouse's desire to save money on the bill.

During the course of a developing relationship, you find out the preferences of the other person, including what types of ice cream they like, what television shows do they watch, and what their favorite color is. When you move in with one another, you learn some of their more personal habits, and when you get married, you have made the active decision to accept them as a part of who that person is.

One of the biggest differences that arise among married couples is over comfort. Many find themselves uncomfortable if the thermostat is not set to their comfort level. Whether it is too warm, too cool, or set outside of what one spouse may be willing to spend on utilities, it is an issue that can cause problems in one’s marriage and spark talks of divorce.

Hot and cold

With the summer in full force and temperatures rising over 100 degrees, couples can find themselves butting heads over the temperature of their home. The Washington Post wrote an article highlighting research on how the air conditioner setting can push couples over the edge.

Researchers from the Georgetown University Center for the Study of Sex Differences in Health, Aging and Disease studied several species of mammals and found that given the choice between two chambers of cold or hot, males prefer one that is considered to be too cold and the females prefer the one that is too hot.

These researchers also found that the reason why women prefer the heat, as opposed to the cold, had to do with a woman’s lower ratio of body mass to surface area, slower resting metabolism, and lessening muscle mass

They also conducted an experiment among male and female volunteers and had their hands submerged in ice water for as long as possible. According to their results, women were more likely to max out, due to a woman’s sympathetic nervous system activating under the cold stimulation more easily than a man’s.

Gender divide

Similar research was found in the British journal, The Lancet, and published by CNN, finding that women are more likely to have cold hands than men, regardless of their body mass index, age, and core temperature. However, they found that the core temperature of the female body is about 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit more than the male body, on average, according to researchers at the University of Utah.

This gender divide can spark a lot of tension within the relationship. Some would be skeptical that something as trivial as the temperature in a given room can spark the marital problems that can lead to a divorce, but control of the thermostat can be a point of contention, both from a comfort standpoint and a financial one.

Money matters

According to survey results by thermostat manufacturer, Honeywell, that were published in Reuters, 30 percent of respondents who live with at least one person admitted that they can never agree with the housemate about temperature. Furthermore, 27 percent change the temperature settings without the others’ knowledge.

The changes to the temperature can seem small, but they can add up very quickly. According to the California Energy Commission’s Consumer Center, each degree that you raise your thermostat above 72 degrees can save you between 1 percent and 3 percent on your energy bills in the summer.

Philosophical differences

Many times, those that find themselves at odds with their significant over the temperature of the room are philosophically different from one another. When it comes to financial philosophies, one might be a saver and the other might be a spender. This type of difference can be the beginnings of the chasm that can develop in relationships, if left unaddressed.

Many couples look to address their differences in preferences during the extreme weather months with various forms of technology. Space heaters and electric fans provide the relief that they may desire in the room that they are in.

However, these items also can affect other rooms and breed additional conflict. In addition, the electric bill will be affected by their use, and with how hot or cold that the summer and winter months may get, the extra spending can fuel the fires on an argument about money very quickly.

In a world where relationships can guide one’s decision-making, it can be seen as surprising that seemingly small inconveniences and differences like a couple’s opposite preferences in comfortable room temperature, can spiral so quickly. For those that do, there are often other issues are glaring conflicts within the marriage, making the differences in room temperature preference to be just another point of discontent within a crumbling relationship.

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