Forgiveness is one vital skill for improving relationships, new research concludes.
The other is enhancing relationships through positive thinking and behaviour, both together or individually.
This includes talking about the relationship in a positive way and doing fun activities together.
Learning these skills — forgiveness and enhancing the relationship — will help the partnership last.
Managing conflict is often done when the relationship is under threat, explained Dr Brian Ogolsky, the study’s first author:
“Threats to the relationship come from all kinds of different places.
Generally, there are many threats early in relationships that can cause problems, but that is not to say that these disappear later.
We know couples cheat in the long-term, people end up in new workplaces and in new situations where possible alternative partners show up, conflicts arise, or a lack of willingness to sacrifice time for your partner emerges.”
The key is forgiveness, said Dr Ogolsky:
“Good conflict management or forgiving our partner for doing something wrong is an interactive process.
When a threat comes in, we can do one of two things: we can ditch our partner or forgive them over time.”
Alongside conflict management, both partners need to be working on improving the relationship.
Dr Ogolsky said:
“Individually, even the act of thinking about our relationship can be enhancing.
Whereas engaging in leisure activities together, talking about the state of our relationship, these are all interactive.”
Well functioning relationships are a state of mind:
“We are doing something to convince ourselves that this is a good relationship and therefore it’s good for our relationship.
Things like positive illusions, the idea that we can believe our relationship is better than it is or that our partner is better than he or she is.
We can do that without our partner.”
The conclusions come from a review of around 250 separate studies on relationship maintenance .
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the Journal of Family Theory & Review (Ogolsky et al., 2017).