According to actual research, the key to a lasting relationship is writing stories that slam your experience of the other person.
Everyone’s got their own ways of combatting the tensions that stem from extended periods in lockdown. It can have a serious impact on one’s relationships. There could be as many remedies – from taking separate walks, to addressing the issues head-on; speaking about what’s bothering you, or just letting it simmer and drowning your sorrows in what remains of your wine rack (this last point is not one supported by any official medical or psychological association; results may vary). A study from USF’s St. Petersburg campus has revealed that individuals who wrote about their relationship troubles during the pandemic from the point of view of a neutral observer had less conflict and aggression with their partner.
The study, published in the journal Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice (and not its working title, Really Passive-Aggressive Ways to Get At Your Partner For Squeezing the Wrong End of the Toothpaste Tube) surveyed 716 American adults across the US and at the height of the pandemic lockdowns.
The study’s participants were equally divided by gender and asked to complete an assessment to measure the frequency, duration and intensity of conflicts in the relationship, followed by a brief writing exercise.
The exercises included some in the survey being asked to write about a recent disagreement but done from the point of view of a neutral third party – such as a mutual friend – who had the couples’ best interest in mind. This unique perspective was assigned to their partners in subsequent weeks.
Per the Free Press Journal, “Others were asked to express their deepest thoughts and feelings about problems in their relationship or with another person, and others to write about mundane tasks like laundry, house cleaning or lawn care.”
Oddly enough, the scheme seems to have worked to a certain extent.
“Results showed that those who wrote about disagreements from the point of view of a neutral third party reported fewer disagreements, fewer aggression events and lower levels of conflict intensity and severity relative to the control groups.”
The study’s lead, Associate Professor of Psychology Lindsey Rodriguez, said that the participants’ writing from a neutral standpoint allowed them to reframe their thoughts about the disagreement, opening up a new way for them to process the event in a more objective light.
“It lets people move beyond the commonly seen ‘this is why I am right and you are wrong’ defensive stance and puts what is often a small disagreement into the perspective of the entire relationship,” Rodriguez said.
Success may boil down to how well you’re able to hide your frustrations and annoyances about your partner in the third person, or if in fact you are able to effectively capture the authentic voice of Maureen from next door, who one may have presumed was always going to take Fiona’s side on the argument, given their shared love of Rosé and Liane Moriarty novels.
It’s not a bad thing if it works, considering the rate of divorce has skyrocketed during Covid; the BBC reported a major US legal contract-creation site recently announced a 34% rise in sales of its basic divorce agreement, with newlyweds who’d got married in the previous five months making up 20% of sales.
Professor Rodriguez may have shown up a day late and a dollar short.