If you choose to spend the rest of your life living under the same roof with the same person, guess what? You’re going to have conflict. That’s just a part of any long-term relationship and, once marriage, kids, and responsibilities come into the picture, the triggers for conflict multiply exponentially. As anyone who has been involved in a big or small marital spat knows, they tend to follow a pattern. One person points out something negative, the other person becomes defensive and escalates it by pointing out something else negative, and the two volley back and forth until the powder keg goes off. But for those who want a happier relationship — and who doesn’t? — there is an interesting marriage hack to break the cycle of negative reciprocity and getting you and your partner back on even ground — and it takes only 21 minutes: invite a third party.
Well, sort of.
Social psychologist Eli Finkel, Director of the Relationships and Motivation Lab at Northwestern University, author of The All or Nothing Marriage, and one of the leading experts in marriage and family relationships, has conducted extensive research into this specific “love hack” — Finkel’s term for a brief exercise to aid martial satisfaction — and has proven that it not only helps take the edge off arguments but also facilitates more trust and openness between couples.
The way Finkel’s “marriage hack” works is, when you have an argument, take a few minutes and write about the disagreement not from your point of view, or your partner’s, but from the point of view of a neutral, third-party observer. In studies conducted over a few years at Northwestern, Finkel found that the couples that attempted this exercise during three seven-minute online writing exercises per year — a total of 21-minutes — saw not only improvement in their communication, but also a clearer perspective on why they were arguing and what was triggering them.
The trick to the third-party technique is to allow yourself a moment to observe the situation, and your emotions from a more logical and practical perspective, instead of allowing your emotions to drive your actions.
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