Mean Girls Get Married: Teens Don't Always Grow Out of Mean Girl Behavior and End Up Using Emotional Manipulation On Spouse Says Wasatch Family Therapy

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Chelsea Madsen of Wasatch Family Therapy says mean girl behavior doesn't always end in adolescence. Research shows that relational aggression often continues into adulthood through withdrawing love and socially sabotaging one's spouse. Mean girl behavior can lead to lower marital satisfaction and greater marital instability.

The mean girls phenomenon does not end in adolescence and relational aggression occurs frequently in marriage according to Chelsea Madsen, a marriage and family therapist at Wasatch Family Therapy, LLC. In a recent news interviews NBC affiliate KSL Television news interview Madsen says this manipulation in relationships is accomplished through withdrawing love and socially sabotaging one’s spouse. While more women than men participate in the behavior, men also participate in this type of behavior in marriage.

Madsen's doctoral dissertation research found result analogous to researchers at Brigham Young University ( ) using the same data, and also found that a perception of lower marital power in a relationship perpetuated the use of relational aggression in marriage.

"Most people believe that as adolescents grow up they grow out of the ‘mean girls’ behaviors. However, because these forms of manipulation tend to achieve goals in relationships, albeit through an unhealthy avenue, people continue to use them in adult relationships. The use of relational aggression leads to lower marital satisfaction and greater marital instability," Madsen says.

"Often times relational aggression in marriage can become habitual. Madsen suggests the following to break the habit: set your mind to it, ask yourself how and why you use it, talk to your spouse about it, brainstorm with your spouse other ways you can communicate and express yourself, and forgive yourself.

More information on mean girls phenomenon in marriage be found on Wasatch Family Therapy blog and

Chelsea Madsen, MS, AMFT is a doctoral candidate in marriage and family therapy at Kansas State University and has been researching relational aggression for her doctoral dissertation. Madsen currently works as a marriage and family therapist at Wasatch Family Therapy in SLC, UT, and is available to interview by email, phone, or in person.


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