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.
Leading experts in marriage and family relationships, have conducted extensive research into this specific “love hack” — the 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 the “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, experts 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.
In a study of 120 married couples from the Chicago area, experts first had both partners report in every four months and describe the most significant marital conflict they had experienced over the preceding months. After that, couples were broken into two groups, a control group, which simply continued the process through the first year, and another group that was assigned to do the seven-minute neutral party writing assignments three times over the course of the year, for a total of 21 minutes.
The results, spoke for themselves. For couples in the control group — consistent with several previous studies, unfortunately — marital quality declined over the two-year period, as measured by self-reported numerical assessments of marital satisfaction, passion, love, trust and intimacy.”
One of the most striking discoveries of the study was not that the couples had less conflict, but that the conflicts they did have caused less stress and frustration. As a result, the couples felt greater trust and openness with each other.
Why The Marriage Hack Works
So why is this “marriage hack” so successful? How does taking a third-party view of your marriage improve trust and communication between you and your partner?