Whether you’re a marriage therapist calling them “interventions,” a regular person calling them “changes,” or a tech-savvy sort referring to them as “hacks,” small alternations in your relationship can have a great and positive impact on your marriage.
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Even if it’s all smooth sailing right now, try these three marriage hacks to strengthen your bond and help both you and your partner feel better.
1. Try Emotional Reappraisal
Probably the first well-known marriage hack, emotional reappraisal was part of a research study that went on to become a famous TED talk. In this study, published in the journal, Psychological Science in 2013, researchers asked couples to re-evaluate their experiences by simply imagining how someone unbiased, outside of the relationship, would view their behavior.
The couples in the study each took five or ten minutes to talk about a recent relationship conflict source. They provided just a summary of that disagreement that was based in fact, without focus on thoughts or feelings.
Fast-forward to a year later, when half of the couples were assigned to the intervention group, in which they took another 10 minutes for emotional reappraisal. The other half of the couples became part of the control group, and they did not do any emotional reappraisal.
The intervention group was asked to write about a specific disagreement they had with their partner from a neutral, third party perspective. This third party sees things from a completely unbiased point of view and wants the best for all involved.
These couples were also told to decide how the neutral person would find the good that could come from the disagreement and what obstacles they encounter when trying to view things from the third party perspective. Lastly, the intervention group couples were also asked to try to take the third party view during interactions with their partner.
Results from this study showed that the control group couples, who do didn’t do any emotional reappraisal, had a decline in their relationship’s health. But the couples who did the emotional reappraisal had no decline in their relationship health over the next year.
The researchers concluded that when couples view their conflicts through the eyes of a neutral third party, it has a positive and significant impact on their relationship’s health, and the intervention also may have helped prevent further negative effects.
Apply the simple emotional reappraisal technique, as described above, to conflicts in your relationship to help keep things as smooth as possible. Try to use it at the right times, which are usually when there are some factors out of your control.
As reported by the Huffington Post, this technique can backfire if the stress triggers in the situation are entirely in your control, as you may see the situation as less negative and therefore not attempt to make needed changes.
For instance, if your disagreement is over you saying negative things to your partner frequently, that is behavior that is entirely in your control and not the best thing to apply this technique to. But if your disagreement is over money, something that is not always fully under your control, it can really help.
2. Treat Your Partner Like A Stranger Sometimes
Not the type of stranger you would yell at in traffic or avoid on the street, of course, but as a person you recently met and are excited to get to know. Research has discovered that when you’re around your partner all the time, you may just get too comfortable. It becomes easy to drop the pleasant and cheerful tones you tend to use when you’re talking to a new person if you’re speaking with your partner. But if putting your best face forward helps you out when interacting with strangers, it stands to reason that it can help your marriage as well.
A 2007 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology addressed this very issue. Some romantic couples were asked to interact with their partners in the ways that they typically did, while others were told to put their best faces forward. The researchers found that the people who put their best face forward reported being much happier than those who didn’t.
The implications for long-term relationships here is significant because the default position is to not put your best face forward around your partner, the person whom you care about the most. While having the freedom of being moody sometimes or relaxed around your partner is actually a relationship benefit, it can affect your happiness when it becomes the norm.
Treat your partner like a stranger on occasion, giving them the same sort of treatment you give new and interesting people in your life. This can boost your relationship and make your days far more interesting! For example, if you notice your partner has a new haircut, don’t just mention it in passing or ignore it entirely. Tell them exactly what it does to set off the eyes or frame the face, just as you would with a new co-worker’s change in hairstyle. Do the same for things like new clothes and new achievements, big or small – wherever it works.
3. Lose The Phone
A 2012 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology looked at the effects of cellphones in human interactions. In this study, people were split into two groups: one that had phones and another that didn’t during interactions with other people.
During the experiment, people in the phone group had a generic cellphone sitting just outside of their visual field. They were paired up with a stranger and told to talk about an interesting event that had happened to them over the last month for 10 minutes. Researchers also studied people who were only having casual discussions instead of talking about an important life event.
Participants were then asked to rate how well they interacted with their partner in the study. Researchers found that just the simple presence of cellphones slowed the development of closeness and trust and lessened how much understanding and empathy people felt from their study partners. These effects were magnified if the people were discussing an important life event as opposed to just engaging in casual conversation.
Constant technology use can impair feelings of closeness, connections, trust and the perceptions of empathy and understanding, all of which are foundations for healthy relationships. When you are with your partner or any person who is important to you, put that phone away. The improvement of your relationship is well worth it, and that text or email can certainly wait!
These three easy and straightforward changes can have a significant and positive impact on your relationship, and they don’t call for any special skills or intervention by a professional. They’re completely free of charge, so try these hacks today and see your relationship soar!