Even the strongest relationships go through a few rough patches. If you and your partner find yourself starting to argue more and more, researchers at Northwestern University have developed a new technique to help put your relationship back on track in seven minutes or less.
Dr. Eli Finkel and his colleagues at Northwestern University gathered up 120 couples who had been married for on average around 11 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.
Conflict reappraisal intervention involves three different steps. Individuals were first asked to write a detailed description about their most significant argument with their partner during the past four months. The second step involved writing about the same argument from an outsider’s perspective, such as a close friend who wanted to see the best possible outcome for both people. And the final step involved writing about why it was difficult for them to take on this outsider’s perspective during the actual fight. Couples also needed to discuss together how they could use this outsider’s perspective to moderate future arguments.
The results were quite surprising. Those that took part in the conflict reappraisal interventions on a regular basis reported happier and more satisfying marriages overall. They were also able to handle relationship conflicts much more positively and effectively.
Why Does Conflict Reappraisal Intervention Work So Well?
When couples fight, each partner tends to focus on their own perspective. They also want to lash out, sometimes purposely hurting their partner’s emotions in the process. Writing down details about the argument after you’ve both had a chance to cool down allows each partner to examine the actual issues more carefully. The outsider perspective removes any emotional or personal hang-ups from the equation so you can both take a more neutral and logical look at the argument. And the self-examination phase at the end helps steer both partners into having more constructive arguments in the future.