On this feast of St. Jerome, who is almost as well-known for his temper as for his work translating the bible, we thought we’d share some tips for negotiating marital arguments.
This video reveals a surprisingly simple, empirically-validated technique that anyone can use to improve their marriage and, surprisingly, general life satisfaction in 3 easy steps. I’ll describe those steps below, but it’s worth watching the video to understand the background of the study and to get a sense of how powerful and life-changing this simple technique can be.
The researchers note that studies of marital satisfaction show that, as the years go by, couples tend to show a steady and consistent decrease in the degree of satisfaction and fulfillment they enjoy from marriage. This study showed it was possible to arrest this decline by using a simple three-step technique for managing conflict more effectively. The shocking thing was that they only had the couples in the study do the technique 3 times over the course of a year–for a total of 21 minutes– and it actually arrested the decline in marital satisfaction the treatment group was demonstrating before the intervention and that the control group continued to experience even after the treatment group improved.
Basically, the technique gives couples a way to get out of the negative headspace we can all get into when we disagree with someone. Even after a conflict is over, we can hold on to resentments without meaning to. Over time, these bits of unintended resentment cling to us like mud and tar and cause us to get less joy from our marriage. The researchers helped couples overcome this tendency by teaching them that when they were caught up in a disagreement, they should take a break to ask themselves three questions and write out the answers.
1. How would a third party who wanted the best for both of you suggest resolving this problem?
2. What would it take to enact this solution?
3. What obstacles would need to be surmounted in order to enact this solution?
That’s it. Couples who took the time to write out their answers three times over the course of a year stopped marital decline cold. Watch the video if you don’t believe me. The graph is impressive.
I and my associates have actually used a similar intervention in our tele-counseling practice for years and we’ve seen tremendous results. While the researchers were limited to doing the exercise three times over the course of a year, we have the opportunity to work with clients to help them develop this technique as a habit. We find that when couples use this strategy and others like it, not only can they halt marital decline, but they can start to experience a significant increase in marital satisfaction as they learn to let go of their own, limited perspective and work together to find mutually beneficial solutions to their problems. Give it a try. And if you’d like to learn more techniques to help make your life and marriage everything it could be, contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute to make an appointment to speak with a professional, Catholic counselor. We look forward to helping you experience love
more abundantly in your heart and home!
(And Check out our just released title, Just Married: A Catholic Guide to Surviving and Thriving the First 5 Years of Marriage NOW AVAILABLE!)