Rocky Relationship? New Wisdom.

July 15, 2010

According to a recent post on PsychCentral, Rocky Relationship: Ignore the  Common Wisdom, positive psychology is not the answer for all couples. It works for satisfied couples because they already are more positive with each other, avoid the blame game, and have higher expectations. However, this approach is more likely to exasperate things for  rocky couples.

This is the claim made by James K. McNulty in a new paper published in Current Directions in Psychological Science (McNulty, 2010). He reached this conclusion after following hundreds of newlyweds during their first two to four years of marriage. Contrary to popular wisdom, if you are in a rocky relationship he suggests:

  • Do expect problems. Rocky relationships are often the result of poor problem solving skills, so lowering expectations often helps.
  • Don’t ignore the signals. In this case, trying to cover things up with a positive spin just makes problems worse.
  • Blame is good. For couples with the most severe problems, placing blame can motivate a partner to change.
  • Don’t forgive. It simply allows your partner to minimize, and often repeat, his/her actions.

So in a rocky relationship, when things are good being positive is good. However, when things are bad negative processes may work better. The goal: For rocky relationships, accepting negative in the short-term can result in harmony down the road.

What’s your experience?

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