I know, I know. In the past two weeks, we talked about breakups, divorces, aggressive partners, and all those things. I recently had a relationship and trust me, these are not the topics I like to study in class. However, the good news is, today’s article (and also articles after) mainly talks about how to prevent the dark side of relationships from happening. FYI, 64% of Americans report they are “very happy” in their relationship, and people aged 25-34 report having the happiest relationships of all. So you’re highly likely to be fine (at least for another ten years).
Okay, let’s draw our attention back to our topic. Is there anything we can do to not break up? If so, is it reliable? Luckily, yes. In the Is Skills Training Necessary for the Primary Prevention of Marital Distress and Dissolution (2013) article, authors demonstrate that skills training (The Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program, or PREP, and Compassionate and Accepting Relationships Through Empathy, aka CARE) can help couples lower their rates of dissolution——a fancy word for divorces and breakups. The problem is, these two approaches supposedly have different aims. That is to say, PREP should do a better job of dealing with negative behavior, while CARE should tackle more on emotional support and affection. However, no such pattern is observed. Admittedly, as a non-researcher or a person who just wants a stable relationship, why should we care which tactic do what? Do we really need “training” to teach us how to be happy? There’re 64% of Americans think they are happy after all. In the article, researchers also point out that people already possess all the skills, and all they need is to give them directions. The third approach introduced in the paper is one of our old friends——Relationship Awareness (RA). Researchers find that RA can generate similar outcomes to coulees who received skills training. Even better, to increase RA, there is no training required, and which I quote “low-dose, low-cost” interventions are enough. Couples can easily utilize this tactic in their daily lives.
If you’re here for more practical advice, don’t get frustrated. Benjamin Karney, a Social psychology professor at UCLA, has something to say.
In his literature review and also in his paper, he finds out that those “happiest” couples can clearly identify whatever aspects of their relationship are most positive (Neff & Karney, 2003). Some may question this trend because nearly every relationship begins like this. However, he later points out over time, as specific aspects of the relationship change, with some parts becoming more positive and some becoming more negative, the couples who stay happiest overall are the ones who change their beliefs about what is important in their relationships accordingly, deciding that whatever aspects of the marriage have declined must not be so important after all (Neff & Karney, 2003). In Karney’s different article, he states that “one way spouses can do this is by generating explanations for a spouse’s failings that limit any broader implications those failings may have” (Neff & Karney, 2005). Translate that into something I can understand would be Complain but not blame. For example, if I feel my part is distant to me one evening, I can attribute her behavior as an outcome of a difficult day at work (rather than a sign of a lack of interest in me), means that I fully acknowledge the negative behavior has no impact for my relationship. It’s just one of those days.
We don’t need to be psychology professionals to know maintaining relationships can sometimes be hard. People who think it’s easy are either lying or extremely lucky. But there are ways, many actually, to help us keep a healthy relationship. Please, have fun, and more importantly, have faith!
1. Rogge, R. D., Cobb, R. J., Lawrence, E., Johnson, M. D., & Bradbury, T. N. (2013). Is Skills Training Necessary for the Primary Prevention of Marital Distress and Dissolution? A 3-year Experimental Study of Three Interventions. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 81, 949-961
2. Neff, L. A., & Karney, B. R. (2003). The dynamic structure of relationship perceptions: Differential importance as a strategy of relationship maintenance. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29, 1433-1446.
3. Neff, L. A., & Karney, B. R. (2005). To know you is to love you: The implications of global adoration and specific accuracy for marital relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88, 480-497.
4 .eHarmony. (n.d.). 64 Percent of Americans Say They’re Happy In Their Relationships. Retrieved November 1, 2021, from https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/64-percent-of-americans-say-theyre-happy-in-their-relationships-300595502.html