The Seven Minute Relationship Fix
We all go through relationship problems at time, but what if you start to notice that yours is starting to go on the decline? Is there a ‘quick fix’ way to be sure that your connection with your partner stays intact? You might think this was a gimmick, but a recent university study showed that in less than seven minutes you can save your relationship from falling apart.
Eli Finkel and his colleagues at Northwestern University gathered up 120 couples who had been married for on average around eleven years. Every four months, for two years, these couples would answer a series of questions about the quality of their marriage. After the first year of the study, half the participants were assigned to what they referred to as “conflict reappraisal intervention”.
So what was this conflict reappraisal intervention? Well, those assigned to this group were asked to look back on the previous four months and write down their most significant argument with their partner. This needed to be in detail, from the point of view of the individual writing it down. Then, the writer was asked to take on another point of view, from an outside 3rd party who wanted to see the best outcome for both the people in the relationship. The writer then needed to re-write this conflict from this imaginary 3rd party’s point of view. Lastly, the writer needed to describe why it was difficult for them to take on this fictional 3rdp party’s perspective during the actual fight. They also needed to discuss how they were going to use this outside perspective in future arguments.This session was done two more times, each four months apart. The results after the two year study were quite surprising. Those that took part in the conflict reappraisal interventions showed less of a drop in marriage quality during the study’s second year. In addition, those who were part of the intervention also were able to handle conflicts within the relationship more positively.
So why do the study’s founders think this worked so well? When couples fight, those involved tend to think of their own perspective on the situation. They also want to lash out, sometimes purposely hurting their partner’s emotions, even when not relevant to the actual issue at hand. The act of writing down these conflicts after the fact helps give the space needed to examine the actual issues more carefully. The perspective from the 3rd person forces the writer to drop the ‘lashing out’ and other emotional hang-ups from the previous fight. Finally, the self-examination and plan making at the end will help steer the writer into having more constructive arguments in the future.
Alright – who’s going out and getting themselves a notebook and pen? It really could save your relationship from certain doom.