Preserve the spark of married life

New research indicates that marital fights that douse the passion in a marriage can be better handled and that too in just 21 minutes.

Couple at sunset

Newly married couples find nothing more blissful, intoxicating and magical as the first few initial months of their marital life. Welcome, to the honeymoon period! But, this also belies the basic assumption that this is a short-lived period to be enjoyed till reality sets in and this dream phase ends.

This is the experience of most married couples. However, does it have to be so? What if there was a ‘magic pill’ to cure us of decline in marital loving? A study by researchers at the New Northwestern University research seems to point to a solution. Couples can maintain that loving feeling if they complete just three, seven-minute writing exercises that the researchers recommend.

"I don't want it to sound like magic, but you can get pretty impressive results with minimal intervention," said Eli Finkel, lead author of the study and professor of psychology at Northwestern.

The researchers conducted a study on 60 couples who participated in writing exercises and 60 couples who did not. For two years, all of the 120 couples had to report how their marriage was faring in the last four months, including satisfaction, love, intimacy, trust, passion and commitment they experience. Also, they had to provide a factual summary of the most significant disagreement they had experienced with their spouse in those four months. But the 60 couples who undertook the writing exercises had to think about the most recent disagreement with their partner from the perspective of a neutral third party who wished the best for all involved.

Predictably, the marital passion reduced in the Year 1 of the experiment. However, for the couples who looked at their disagreements from a third-person perspective seemed to feel satisfied with their relationship in spite of the fights. Even though they fought as much as the other group, these couples were less hassled by the clashes and hence were able to maintain a satisfactory married life.

"Not only did this effect emerge for marital satisfaction, it also emerged for other relationship processes—like passion and sexual desire—that are especially vulnerable to the ravages of time," Finkel said. "And this isn't a dating sample. These effects emerged whether people were married for one month, 50 years or anywhere in between."

The researchers also underlined that low marital quality can have serious health implications. The data collected from coronary artery bypass patients also highlighted that patients who experienced high marital satisfaction after the surgery were three times more likely to be alive for additional 15 years than those who experienced low marital satisfaction.

Marriage tends to be healthy for people, but the quality of the marriage is much more important than its mere existence. Having a high-quality marriage is one of the strongest predictors of happiness and health. From that perspective, participating in a seven-minute writing exercise three times a year has to be one of the best investments married people can make. After all, the honeymoon period doesn’t last forever but true love does!

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