Relationships are tough. I find it helpful to see them as a winding road that goes through smooth valleys and steep mountain terrain.
It is in the rough part of the relationship journey that we might find ourselves unhappy and unsatisfied. During this time, we might get annoyed, frustrated and angry with our partners. We might find our partners uncooperative and unwilling to work on the relationship.
While we don’t have any control over what he or she does, we have control over what we do. To our rescue comes a useful and easy technique that I use frequently – Expressive Writing (EW).
EW is a straightforward and free tool that can help us manage our distress and often save our relationships
EW is different from the regular journaling where you might recount the daily events. The key to this type of writing is that it focuses on describing feelings related to one’s relationships.
But before we focus on the technique, let’s look at two major benefits of using it:
Preserves quality and longevity of your relationships
A study on effects of EW published in Psychological Science revealed that individuals who completed EW reported greater levels of relational stability. Also, three months after the study completion, 75% of individuals in relationships who completed EW remained together compare to the 50% of participants of the control group who wrote about the daily events.
Offers recovery during relationship crisis
Research published in Clinical Psychology shows that EW can have a healing effect for couples struggling with unfaithfulness or emotional trauma. It brings greater understanding of their partners and a more positive attitude towards them. Also, EW improves positive communication and helps to process grief and other complex feelings.
The basis for the EW effectiveness is our natural tendency to create a narrative about our experiences. By writing down our thoughts and feelings, we can see our role in our life story much more clearly.
And now for the actual technique:
- What you need are a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. You can keep it very simple with a blank paper or get yourself a beautiful journal. Typing on a computer is also an option, but might be a less effective alternative. Research that shows that handwriting involves a part of the brain is more closely linked to speech processing.
- Apply a free-flowing writing approach. Write your thoughts and feelings down without censoring them. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, or feel free to use swear words.
- Write about how you feel not about details of what happened. This is not minutes of a meeting. The details of what happened don’t matter. What is important is how you feel about it.
- Write uninterrupted for 15 minutes daily or weekly. With this duration, research shows that you might see significant positive results following 4-6 EW sessions.
It is beneficial to see EW as an investment in your well-being and long-term relational health.
I frequently use expressive writing myself when I experience a difficulty in my relationship. My advice is next time you are feeling angry at your spouse try reaching for a piece of paper and a pen.
To learn more about EW and to enhance your relationship health, connect with me for a free consultation at my online support service, Global Therapy with Viktoria.