I’m delighted to share a guest post from a colleague, Gina Senarighi, MA, MS, MFTI, today on The Marriage Hack, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. First, a little bit on Gina:
Gina Senarighi, MA, MS, MFTI, is a relationship coach, couples counselor, sex educator, blogger, and communication trainer who inspires couples to be even stronger together. She guides clients to bring greater fulfillment, passion, and joy into their workplaces and homes. She holds master’s degrees in both counseling and education and is completing her Daring Way™ certification and a PhD in positive psychology. In her free time she enjoys gardening, listening to NPR, practicing yoga, and traveling the world with her partner.
The Marriage Hack: 20 Minutes to a Healthy Relationship
One truth for most long term couples, is that satisfaction declines over time. Keeping interest, desire, and overall satisfaction alive in a relationship takes work. Couples typically become less and less happy with their relationships the longer they’ve been together. A large part of my job is helping them rediscover it and find ways to keep it.
Recently, a group of scientists developed an intervention called “The Marriage Hack,” utilizing a specific technique they call emotional reappraisal that has had profound impact on my work with marital satisfaction. Emotional reappraisal occurs when couples re-evaluate their experiences by imagining how a neutral 3rd party (an unbiased person outside the couple) would view their behavior.
Using a group of 120 middle-aged couples, researchers asked about their relationship quality and tracked any changes for two years. The couples took 5-10 minutes month to discuss their conflict conflict sources with each other. After one year, half of the couples were randomly assigned an intervention, where they spent ten minutes focusing on the following questions:
- Reflect on a specific disagreement that you are having with your partner. Think about this disagreement with your partner from the perspective of a neutral third party who wants the best for all involved. How might this person think about the disagreement? How might he or she find the good that could come from it?
- Almost everybody finds it challenging to take this third-party perspective at all times. In your relationship with your partner, what obstacles do you face in trying to take this third-partner perspective, especially when you’re having a disagreement with your partner?
- Try your best to take this third-party perspective during interactions with your partner, especially during disagreements over the next four months. How might you be most successful in taking this perspective in your interactions with your partner for that length of time? How might taking this perspective help you make the best of disagreements in your relationship?
Even though most couples declined in satisfaction over the first year of the study, adding a neutral third party’s perspective had a profound effect on relationship health. The decrease in relationship health most couples experience was halted for the group of couples that went through the reappraisal intervention. In the words of the study authors, “the emotional reappraisal activity changed the trajectory of participants’ marriages.”
This is one of the ways starting couples counseling or marriage therapy can help relationships withstand the test of time. Adding a neutral third party perspective, and causing partners to pause and consider a consultant’s view on their relationship health can improve long term success in marriage and partnerships.
If you are in a long-term romantic partnership, this “Marriage Hack” is an incredibly powerful, simple, brief exercise that can greatly impact your relationship. Even if you choose never to involve a professional’s support, 20 minutes of reflection every few weeks can seriously improve the health of your marriage long-term. For more information on the Marriage Hack, check out the TED Talk below.
Let me know how trying this “hack” works for you and your partner in the comments.
This post originally appeared on Gina’s website, http://amplifyhappinessnow.com, which also has some other fantastic posts and articles to be sure to check out!
Finkel, E. J., Slotter, E. B., Luchies, L. B., Walton, G. M., & Gross, J. J. (2013). A brief intervention to promote conflict reappraisal preserves marital quality over time. Psychological Science, 24(8), 1595-1601.