Is the secret to wedded bliss between the lines? Researchers have found a way to address the seven-year itch that doesn't involve scratching, but something far more junior high. Journaling. Yes, it seems that for many couples a little pen to paper action can put the bliss back in bed faster than you can say Shakespeare.
Call it a writing intervention. And it doesn't take complex rhyming couplets to get your heart beating faster. According to an article in Science Daily, just three, seven-minute online writing exercises was enough to keep the fire stoked for the 120 couples surveyed.
"I don't want it to sound like magic, but you can get pretty impressive results with minimal intervention," said Eli Finkel, lead author of the study and professor of psychology at New Northwestern University.
Every four months over a two-year period, the married couples rated their "relationship satisfaction, love, intimacy, trust, passion and commitment." They also recounted—while trying to sound like a neutral third party—a blow-by-blow of a noteworthy disagreement they'd had with their partner in the past four months.
Although couples showed a drop in the quality of their marriages in the first year, by the second year those who completed the writing exercises bounced back, and appeared less distraught by quarrels than those in the non-writing group. Interestingly, they still fought just as often as those in the control group.
"Not only did this effect emerge for marital satisfaction, it also emerged for other relationship processes — like passion and sexual desire — that are especially vulnerable to the ravages of time," Finkel said. "And this isn't a dating sample. These effects emerged whether people were married for one month, 50 years or anywhere in between."
Researchers were concerned about heart flutters of a different kind. After all, the quality of married life can seriously impact health, with improved prognoses among coronary artery bypass patients.
"Having a high-quality marriage is one of the strongest predictors of happiness and health," added Finkel. "From that perspective, participating in a seven-minute writing exercise three times a year has to be one of the best investments married people can make."
The act of writing about your marriage keeps it at the forefront in your mind, therefore making you more inclined to work at it. Certainly having a relationship 'check-up' every four months or so can't be a bad idea.
Inspired to break out the journal?