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21 minutes to a happier marriage

How much time do you have to put in to improve your marriage? Maybe less than you think. A team of psychologists surveyed heterosexual married couples over the Internet about their relationships every four months for two years. After the first year, the survey also asked half of the couples to write for seven minutes about reappraising their disagreements from a neutral third-party perspective. The researchers also sent an e-mail to these couples in between surveys reminding them of the reappraisal task. That’s all: less than half an hour, plus three e-mails. Nevertheless, these couples reported a better trend in relationship quality than the other couples, regardless of race, age, income, length of marriage, number or age of children. The psychologists conclude: “Given the major health and well-being correlates of marital distress—both for the spouses themselves and for their children and broader social networks—spending 21 minutes a year reappraising conflict appears to yield a spectacular return on investment.”

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