2006 October 01 Sunday
Writing About Relationships Makes Them Last Longer

If either member of a couple writes about their relationship every day the relationship lasts longer on average. So then what would happen if they both wrote about it? And what would happen if they read what each other wrote?

AUSTIN, Texas—Writing about one’s romantic relationship may help it last longer, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin report in this month’s issue of Psychological Science.

In a study titled “How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Words,” Psychology Professor James Pennebaker and graduate student Richard Slatcher analyzed writing samples from 86 couples. One person from each couple was instructed to write for 20 minutes a day for three consecutive days. Volunteers in one group wrote about their daily activities while those in the second group wrote about their deepest thoughts and feelings about the relationship. The participants’ dating partners did not complete any writing task.

The researchers found that 77 percent of volunteers who wrote about their relationship were still dating their partner three months later. In contrast, only 52 percent of people who wrote just about everyday activities stayed with their partner.

The study also showed that those who wrote about their relationship used more words expressing positive emotions such as “happy" and "love" in Instant Message (IM) exchanges with their dating partner during the days following the writing.

This brings up a perhaps unobvious question: If writing about a relationship will make it last longer is that necessarily a good thing?

If you are fairly young and are in a relationship that is not well suited to you then keeping it going has a big opportunity cost. You might end up getting married, having kids, and only then might the strains of the relationship push you apart and end the relationship. In that case writing about it is a bad idea.

What we need are measures of a relationship's health and long term prospects that would provide some guidance on whether to up the investment or write off the loss and move on.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 October 01 02:07 PM  Human Nature


Comments
Stephen said at October 5, 2006 3:48 AM:

What we need are measures of a relationship's health and long term prospects that would provide some guidance on whether to up the investment or write off the loss and move on.

The biggest problem with 'large fraction of your life'-type relationships is that personalities change in a fundamental way when the first child arrives. I'd like some sort of pre-marriage blood test that predicted the personality of the subjects after they become parents.

Or maybe a 'duck and cover' style civil defence film??


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