“How will I feel in one year about this current conflict in my relationship?”
That is the first question that makes people feel better about their relationship conflicts.
After asking this question, people feel more positive about their relationship, research reveals.
Taking up a future perspective like this causes people to interpret their relationship in a more positive light.
When people think about their future together, they tend to be more forgiving about current conflicts.
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.”
For the study, couples were asked to think back to a recent conflict.
Half took a future-orientation to it while the remainder described it in the present.
People who imagined themselves in the future felt more positive about their relationships, the results showed.
A future orientation encouraged people to be more forgiving to their partner and also blame them less.
Mr Huynh said:
“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.”
How are you feeling?
A second simple question that can improve relationships is asking “How are you feeling?”
This is because couples are often poor at knowing when their partner is sad, lonely or a little down.
Instead, couples tend to assume their partner feels the same way as they do.
Asking “How are you feeling?” and working on ’empathic accuracy’ could improve the relationship.
Sadness and loneliness were particularly difficult to read, researchers have found.
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 Social Psychological and Personality Science (Huynh et al., 2016).