When it comes to resolving arguments and overcoming relationship difficulties, new research suggests it could be as simple as taking a step back and thinking about the future, rather than getting caught up in the heat of the moment.
Previous research has already shown how taking a step back from relationship conflict and taking a ‘fly-on-the-wall’ perspective could help couples to reconcile their differences, with one of the study’s own authors, Igor Grossman, already demonstrating in his previous research that couples are better able to reason with and resolve issues of infidelity when they look at the problem from a third-person perspective.
This new study, carried out by lead author Alex Huynh along with Grossman, both from the University of Waterloo, and with Daniel Yang from Yale University, US, looked at whether thinking to the future, as well as stepping back from the current conflict, could help couples improve their reasoning strategies for improved relationship well-being.
The team recruited participants, who were asked to think about a recent conflict with a romantic partner or a close friend.
Participants were then split into two groups. One group was asked to describe how they would feel about the conflict one year from now, while the other group was asked to describe how they felt about the conflict right now in the present.
The participants’ written responses were then analysed for their use of pronouns – such as I, me, she, he – which helped reveal whose feelings and behaviour the participants focused on in the conflict.
The responses were also analysed for any reasoning strategies used by the participants to help resolve the conflict, such as forgiveness.
The analysis showed that thinking about the future affected both participants’ focus on their feelings and their reasoning strategies.
Not only did this lead participants to report more positively about their relationship, but it also meant that when asked to think about their relationship one year into the future, participants were able to show more forgiveness towards their partner and to see the conflict in a more reasoned and positive way.
“When romantic partners argue over things like finances, jealousy, or other interpersonal issues, they tend to employ their current feelings as fuel for a heated argument. By envisioning their relationship in the future, people can shift the focus away from their current feelings and mitigate conflicts,” concluded Huynh, before adding, “Our study demonstrates that adopting a future-oriented perspective in the context of a relationship conflict – reflecting on how one might feel a year from now – may be a valuable coping tool for one’s psychological happiness and relationship well-being.”
The findings can be found published online in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. – AFP Relaxnews