A pad of paper and a pen might very well save your marriage. According to new research from Northwestern University, a few minutes spent writing about marital strife can protect your union from discord.
The NU study team recruited 120 married couples--ranging from newlyweds to longterm partners--and split them into two groups. Every four months, each person completed a questionnaire about their marital satisfaction and spent a few minutes writing about their most recent marital argument. One of the groups also completed a separate writing exercise related to that spat.
More from Prevention: The simple strategy that boosts your joy
After two years, the results of the study were surprising: While marriage quality dropped roughly 6 percent annually among couples in the first group, those who completed the additional writing exercise experienced no declines in marriage quality. Key relationship features, including love, intimacy, trust, passion, and commitment, all remained stable, says study author Eli Finkel, PhD, a professor of social psychology at Northwestern.
Why? That extra writing exercise asked each spouse to think about his or her recent argument from a neutral third party's point of view, Finkel explains. By doing that, participants put psychological distance between themselves and the argument, and started to contemplate the spat in the context of what would be best for everyone involved. Finkel says both of these benefits reduce the amount of distress individuals feel about both past and future arguments. "These benefits held whether the couple had been together for five months or 50 years."
More from Prevention: How To Talk To Your Man
To keep your marriage going strong--in good times and in bad--answer these key questions in writing every four months (and get your partner to do so, too). Ask yourself...
1. What's the biggest argument you two have had during the past four months? Focus on the behavior of you and your partner, not on thoughts or feelings.
2. Write about the disagreement from the perspective of a neutral third party who wants the best for all involved. How might she think about the disagreement? How might she find the good that could come from it?
3. What obstacles have you faced in trying to take this third partner perspective, especially when you're having a disagreement with your partner? Write it out to remind yourself. While some people find it helpful to assume this third party perspective during interactions with their partner, most find it challenging to take this perspective at all times.
4. How has it helped to take this perspective during disagreements? Emphasize the positives of being neutral during arguments, and consider what will help you be most successful in continuing to take it.
More from Prevention: 10 Little Things Connected Couples Do
love: friendship, dating, sex & marriage
Learn how these surprising tactics can really improve your relationship.
Use these tips to up your chances of finding love.
Find out how paired-off ladies might feel lacking—and how you can make your relationship satisfying.
These signals are seriously subtle, but they can give you real insight into what's going through your husband's mind.
I polled a variety of men on what qualities they look for when they first meet a woman. Here are the goods.
We know some of this may sound obvious, but these simple statements can make both of you happier.
Our guy expert, Lodro Rinzler, reached out to seven guys to ask them at what moment exactly they knew they were in love with their significant other. Here's what they had to say:
Making your relationship more secure, connected, and intimate doesn’t have to feel overwhelming. Try these expert tips and reap the rewards now—and in the long run.
For those times when nothing big and horrible happened--but nothing is feeling right either.
Our married blogger gets real about checking out other guys when you're taken.
He’s confident, distinguished and anywhere from 4 to 20 years older than you. Age is just a number, but there’s something about older men that we love. Here are eight reasons why being in a relationship with an older man is tops.
While a younger man may have less life experience, that doesn’t mean he’s not emotionally mature. Here are the eight reasons why being in a relationship with a younger man is tops.