With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, it’s that time of year when many couples focus on finding new and creative ways to express their feelings and boost their relationships. While showing and telling your partner that he/she is loved is very important for building relationships, new research suggests that a simple 7-minute activity can also be effective at preventing declines in marital satisfaction over time.
Researchers from Northwest University in Chicago recently released a set of interesting results on marital satisfaction from a large study of married couples in the Midwest. Couples who completed a simple 7-minute writing activity every 4 months showed stable marital satisfaction over 2 years. Couples who did not complete the activity saw their contentment with their relationship decline over time. See full coverage of the study on NBC News/Today.
So what did this writing assignment entail that was so potent that it prevented dissatisfaction from creeping into the relationship? In a nutshell, the assignment focused on identifying a major disagreement the individual had experienced with his/her partner and then writing about the argument from the partner’s perspective.
Why is this an interesting finding? While completing this activity did not increase satisfaction levels, per se, preventing dissatisfaction over time is an equally powerful effect – especially when you consider that most relationships see declines in satisfaction over time. Not to mention that couples saw an effect from a fairly minimal amount of time invested.
So why does this seem to work? I would speculate that taking a little time to push yourself to see your partner’s perspective likely helps you increase your empathy for your partner and helps boost understanding and acceptance.
Recent research on marital therapy seems to suggest that helping couples build acceptance for each other is a potent component of treatment. Couples who participate in therapy incorporating taking the partner’s perspective and building acceptance show improvements over a longer period of time than couples who just learn new communication and problem-solving skills in therapy.
So, this Valentine’s Day, in addition to the cards, flowers, and chocolate, give your partner the gift of a little introspection and perspective taking. The benefits are worth it!