Focusing on the future can help couples deal with relationship conflicts, new research finds.
When people imagined how they would feel in one year’s time, they thought and felt better about their relationships.
Mr Alex Huynh, the lead author of the study, 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, people thought back to a recent conflict with a friend or romantic partner.
One group thought about how they felt in the moment.
Another group imagined how they would feel one year in the future.
Both groups then wrote about their relationships.
An analysis of the text showed that thinking about the future had positive effects:
- People wrote more positive about their relationships.
- They used more words related to forgiveness and understanding.
The study shows the importance of how people respond to conflict in a relationship.
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.”
The trick of giving yourself a little psychological distance has all sorts of other benefits.
It can help you generate self-insight, gain emotional control, improve self-control and even trigger wise thoughts.
The study was published in Social Psychological and Personality Science (Huynh et al., 2016).
Couple image from Shutterstock