Couples know the way to maintain a relationship is to fight fair. Northwestern University researchers had couples take that one step furtherand helped them achieve greater marital satisfaction.
They studied 120 couples, who’d been married anywhere between one month and 50 years, over the course of two years. Half the couples were left to solve their issues as they normally would while the other half had to complete seven-minute online writing exercises about a dispute. They were asked to evaluate their situation from the point of view of a neutral third party who wants what’s best for everyone. Every four months participants reported their marriage satisfaction, intimacy, passion, love, trust and commitment. They gave a factual, unemotional recount of their biggest disagreement in those preceding months.
During the first year, all couples reported a decline in marital satisfaction. But during the second year, couples who did the writing exercises didn’t report any change in their marriage satisfaction whereas their peers in the other group still said there was a decline in happiness. Couples in both groups reported fighting about the same amount and about things that were about as serious. The couples in the writing group said that their arguments didn’t upset them as much. They also said they were more satisfied with their sex lives, something most people feel declines with time.