Study shows writing about a romantic relationship may help it last longer

August 22, 2006

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.

“These results demonstrate that people who express more emotion, both in their writing and to their partner, may have the power to improve their relationship’s longevity,” Pennebaker says.

Monitoring IM conversations allowed the researchers to examine the ebb and flow of the participants’ daily conversations in their natural setting, and provided insight into the progression of the relationships after the writing. For example, couples who used more words expressing positive emotions in their IMs after the writing period were more likely to stay together down the road.

Pennebaker and Slatcher believe the connection between writing and improving one’s relationship may extend beyond the realm of dating couples.

“That people may enhance their romantic relationships by simply writing down their thoughts and feelings about those relationships has clear implications,” Pennebaker says. “The use of expressive writing as a tool for relationship enhancement could be applied to those in families, circles of friends and even work groups.”

Source: University of Texas at Austin

Explore further: Pen pal is powerful boost to prisoner wellbeing

Related Stories

A new take on the games people play in their relationships

March 21, 2012

Human nature has deep evolutionary roots and is manifested in relationships with family members, friends, romantic and business partners, competitors, and strangers more than in any other aspects of behavior or intellectual ...

Modern relationships made, marred, mended by technology

November 29, 2013

Lia MacDonald sat down at her laptop and clicked on Facebook. There he was, her old flame, asking for her. It had been years since their last encounter, long before she met her husband, started a family and moved across the ...

Recommended for you

Biologists trace how human innovation impacts tool evolution

November 24, 2015

Many animals exhibit learned behaviors, but humans are unique in their capacity to build on existing knowledge to make new innovations. Understanding the patterns of how new generations of tools emerged in prehistoric societies, ...

How experienced buyers can mitigate economic bubbles

November 19, 2015

(—Over the last decade, many people got a tough primer on the effects of economic bubbles, as the bursting of the 2007-2008 housing bubble sent shockwaves through most of the major world economies. But property ...

First Londoners were multi-ethnic mix: museum

November 23, 2015

A DNA analysis of four ancient Roman skeletons found in London shows the first inhabitants of the city were a multi-ethnic mix similar to contemporary Londoners, the Museum of London said on Monday.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.