Being emotionally flexible may be one of the most important factors when it comes to longevity and overall health of the romantic and familial relationships, say researchers.
The study, published in the ‘Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science’, statistically combined the results of 174 separate studies that had looked at acceptance and commitment therapy, mindfulness, and emotion regulation.
The researchers’ aim was to clarify how mindful flexibility on one hand and inattentive, mindless, and rigid inflexibility on the other were linked to the dynamics within families and romantic relationships.
“This meta-analysis underscores that being mindful and emotionally flexible in tough and challenging situations not only improves the lives of individuals, it might also strengthen and enrich their close relationships,” said study co-author Ronald Rogge from the University of Rochester in the US.
The results suggest that psychological flexibility and inflexibility may play key roles in both couples and families in shaping how individuals interact with the people closest to them.
The meta-analysis, also commonly referred to as a “study of studies,” cements and adds to the findings of Rogge’s earlier work in which he and a team tested the effects of couples’ watching movies together and talking about the films afterwards.
In that work, the team demonstrated that couples could bring mindful awareness, compassion, and flexibility back into their relationships by using movies to spark meaningful relationship discussions, leading to both immediate and long-term benefits.
That study, conducted in 2013, found that an inexpensive, fun, and relatively simple watch-and-talk approach can be just as effective as other more intensive therapist-led methods — more than halving the divorce or separation rate from 24 to 11 per cent after the first three years of marriage.
“The results suggest that husbands and wives have a pretty good sense of what they might be doing right and wrong in their relationships,” Rogge said about the earlier study.
“You might not need to teach them a whole lot of skills to cut the divorce rate. You might just need to get them to think about how they are currently behaving. And for five movies to give us a benefit over three years — that is awesome,” Rogge noted.