If there's one truth to pretty much every relationship out there, it's this: every couple will go through their fair share of fights. While there are the lucky few out there who don’t fight with their partners, for the larger majority, fighting with your partner is just seemingly unavoidable. As many would know, there are good ways to fight with your S.O. and of course, bad ways. If you want to keep your relationship happy and harmonious, resolving those inevitable relationship fights as soon as possible is the best way to go. As a new study found, ending a fight is pretty simple if you do this one thing: think about the future.
In a study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, researchers from the University of Waterloo wanted to see how adopting a “future-oriented” perspective during a relationship conflict impacted the fight and overall well-being of the relationship. In one experiment the researchers took over 300 participants and asked them to reflect on arguments with their partners. Some participants were also asked to think about how they would feel about the argument in the future, while others were asked to focus on the present. I'm pretty sure we all know how things go from there.
Sure, your partner not taking out the trash is annoying AF at the time, but think about how it'll affect you five years from now — or even how you'd be seen on camera.
“Would you want the entire world to see you yelling at your partner for leaving dishes in the sink? If the answer is no, think about how you'd want to be seen on camera (probably as a mature, loving person who communicates clearly) and then talk to your partner that way,” dating coach and licensed marriage and family therapist Pella Weisman tells Bustle. “It's OK to fake your way into being a more reasonable partner!”
Here's what else the study found:
1. Present-Oriented Thinkers Are Fueled By Anger
When you’re mad, you’re mad. You’ll say whatever you feel in the moment, no matter how hurtful it may be and then you regret it later. In many of those cases, the damage done tends to be a lot worse than if you had just stopped right there.
“It's great to be in the present moment, but when your present moment is dominated by anger over a minor annoyance, you're probably not actually in the present but the past," Weisman says. "The reason you are SO bothered about the dishes is not actually because of the dishes, but because of what they represent to you."
If you know you’re a present-thinker, here's what you can do, according to Weisman: Take a minute for a pause: breathe and think before you act.
2. Future-Oriented Thinkers Know How To Keep Fights In Check
There are fights you should have and fights that signal there's a problem in the relationship. Fighting with your S.O. over things like forgetting to clean up after themselves a couple times or skipping out on one small work event out of many isn’t going to matter five, 10, or 20 years down the road. So, why should you make it a big deal?
As the study found, people who thought about the future of their relationship during a fight were less likely to blame their partners for whatever issue they were having. They were also able to put the fight into perspective and see the bigger picture.
3. Because Of That, Their Relationships Were Happier
People who were future-oriented not only had the ability to let arguments go, but they were also able to forgive. When people forgave, forgot, and moved on, their relationships were just happier overall.
As the researchers suggest, the best thing to do is take a “timeout.” People who took a timeout were able to learn from the fight. When they worked things out, researchers found that it actually helped people get closer to their partners.
“To think about the future, try to flash forward to a moment in time that makes you happy to fantasize about: your wedding, or having your first child," Weisman says. "When you imagine these happy moments, imagine who you want to be now and then. Remember all the reasons you love and choose your partner. Then tell them about why the dishes in the sink bother you.”
When you put things into perspective and realize that an argument isn’t worth it, you’re more likely to let it go and move on — and who doesn't want that?
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