Is “Mindfulness” a new way of making marriages work?

No. But it covers similar ways of dealing with negative behaviours – such as STOP signs – taught in the best relationship programmes

According to the lead article in Saturday’s Times Weekend (£), “mindfulness” is the new therapy buzzword.

Mindfulness is about being self-aware. If you can recognise how your own feelings are sending you into a negative spiral, then you are better placed to turn arguments into discussions.

Amen to that!

What’s interesting about this approach is how similar it is to the principles you would learn on a good relationship education course.

Rather than going to a therapist, relationship courses teach couples about the principles that make marriages work better and how to apply them.

Since the invention of video tape in the 1970s, researchers have been filming the way couples argue early on in their relationship and then seeing how their marriages evolve over the next few years.

The most dramatic claim from this kind of research has been to predict with 90%-plus accuracy who will split and who will stay, all from a 3 minute video!

Thankfully, things are a little more grey. The ability to predict with near-certainty has since been thoroughly discredited.

However the general principle is sound. The way we argue today points towards the way our marriage may turn out tomorrow.

Three broad factors have emerged from this kind of predictive research: attitudes, negative behaviours and positive behaviours.

Interestingly, it is not the positives that matter most. A lack of positives tends to break a marriage some way down the line.

What tends to wreck marriages early on is the presence of negative behaviours – the way we mistreat one another.

Two top US research groups – in Washington and Denver – have identified similar descriptions of these negative behaviours.

My easy way of remembering these behaviours is through the acronym STOP.

STOP Scoring points, Thinking the worst, Opting Out, Putting down.

I’ll go through STOP in more detail in subsequent blog articles.

If you can’t wait, then I recommend you read my book Let’s Stick Together which describes them in detail. It’s an easy read and a fiver or so from Amazon.

You can also watch some really good short videos that show each STOP sign in action and how to handle them better.

So do you need to go to a therapist to learn about “mindfulness”?

Up to you.

But a good marriage or relationship education course will cover much the same ground and may be the simple boost you need.

The evidence is that the best marriage courses improve relationship quality, reduce both conflict and divorce risk.

So I’d start there. And if you’re really struggling, read a letter from me that will give you more practical suggestions.

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