Asking a question about the future of the relationship helps to improve it, research finds.
Partners feel more positive about their relationship if they think about it in this future-oriented way.
For example, you might ask:
- “How will I feel in one year about this current conflict in my relationship?”
Thinking about the long-term helps people be more forgiving about current conflicts.
The conclusions come from a study in which people thought back to a recent conflict in their relationship.
Half were told to describe it in the present, the other half with a future-orientation.
The results showed that people who imagined themselves in the future saw their relationship in a more positive light.
They felt greater forgiveness for their partner and blamed them less.
All these things naturally made them feel better about the relationship.
Mr Alex Huynh, the study’s first author, said:
“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.”
The simple question can help people reflect more positively on their relationship, said Mr Huynh:
“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.”
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, 2003) 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 Social Psychological and Personality Science (Huynh et al., 2016).