I’ll start this month’s column with two facts of life that seem at odds. First, relationships—especially marriage and marriage-like partnerships—are good for us and good for our health. When you have a partner who supports you, encourages you, helps you be the best person you can be, and also has sex with you, this is about the most wonderful thing in the world.
I take that back—it is the most wonderful thing in the world.
Unfortunately, the second fact is that the quality (read: satisfaction, passion, trust, intimacy, etc.) of our relationships declines over time for just about everyone. Once you fall in love with someone and create an enduring bond, that bond starts to come apart. I don’t mean to sound all doom and gloom here, but this is a well-replicated scientific finding. Even among happy couples, relationship quality declines in a systematic fashion over time.
Everyone who has a long-term partner nods their head like crazy when someone states the obvious: “Relationships require work.” If you don’t work hard to maintain the quality of your relationship, the glue keeping you together begins to weaken. Next thing you know, it’s 10 years later and you’re wondering how the hell things got so damn bad.
This second fact about relationships prompts obvious questions: What can we do to keep the passion alive? How can we prevent our relationship problems from worsening and becoming truly corrosive? One answer to this question, of course, is that you can go into therapy. This is all well and good if you have the time and the money, but what if you don’t think your problems warrant therapy? Things aren’t terrible, but they’re not that great, either. What should we do now?
Luckily, there’s a hot-off-the-presses new research study by Eli Finkel and colleagues at Northwestern University that gives us an excellent answer to this question. These researchers have invented a seven-minute writing intervention that stalls the natural decline of marital quality.
Up next: Find out how the study worked!