Reduce Marital Conflict with Mindfulness and Emotion Regulation

Reduce Marital Conflict with Mindfulness and Emotion Regulation


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Even in healthy relationships, conflict is inevitable—it’s how you cope with conflict that matters. Coping badly increases stress, and research has shown that too much stress in romantic relationships can put people at risk for mental and physical health problems. According to two new studies, cultivating non-judgmental, moment-to-moment awareness—or mindfulness—might help people feel less stress when conflict arises with their significant other.” – Emily Nauman


Relationships can be difficult as two individuals can and do frequently disagree or misunderstand one another. This is amplified in marriage where the couple interacts daily and frequently have to resolve difficult issues. These conflicts can produce strong emotions and it is important to be able to regulate these emotions in order to keep them from interfering with rational solutions to the conflict. The success of marriage can often depend upon how well the couple handles these conflicts. In fact, it has been asserted that the inability to resolve conflicts underlies the majority of divorces.


Mindfulness may be helpful in navigating marital disputes, as it has been shown to improve the emotion regulation. The great sage Thich Nhat Hahn stated that “If you love someone, the greatest gift you can give them is your presence.” This is a beautiful thought and suggests that we should be in the present moment and completely attentive to our loved ones when we are with them. When any two people interact paying real-time attention to the other is rare. This lack of “presence” can make it difficult to resolve conflict. To successfully negotiate disagreement, it is imperative that each individual truly hears the other perspective. Mindfulness is a prerequisite for deep listening and consequently to resolving conflict. Indeed, mindfulness has been shown to improve relationships. So, mindfulness training may improve couple’s ability to resolve conflict in marriage.


In today’s Research News article “Comparing the effectiveness of mindfulness and emotion regulation training in reduction of marital conflicts.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at:

Molajafar and colleagues investigated the effectiveness of mindfulness training and emotion regulation training in assisting couples in dealing with marital conflict. They recruited couples who were referred for treatment due to marital problems and divided them into a mindfulness training (Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy, MBCT), an emotion regulation training, and a no-treatment control condition. Both treatments were delivered in 8 weekly 90-minute sessions. Before and after the 8-week treatment period all three groups were measured for marital conflicts including the reduction of the couple’s cooperation, reduction of sexual relationships, increase of emotional reactions, increase of asking for children’s support, increase of personal relationships with their own relatives, reduction of personal relationships with the partners’ relatives and friends and separation of financial issues.


They found that in comparison to the no-treatment control both treatments produced a significant decrease in marital conflicts, but the emotion regulation treatment was significantly superior to the mindfulness training in reducing marital conflict. These results suggest that emotion regulation is the most important skill needed to effectively manage marital conflict. Mindfulness training is also effective but may be so as a result of improving emotion regulation. These are interesting and potentially important findings that treatment for marital problems should focus on emotion regulation. It remains for future research to study whether emotion regulation training and mindfulness training may have additive effects such that the two in combination have a greater impact on the couple’s ability to resolve conflict than either alone.


The ubiquitous nature of marital conflicts and the high rate of marital failure and divorce suggests that there is a great need for discovering methods to help couples effectively navigate conflicts. Effective emotion regulation ability appears to be crucial. It involves fully experiencing emotions but reacting to them in a productive and adaptive way. The results of this study suggest that mindfulness and emotion regulation training may be an effective way to do this.


So, reduce marital conflict with mindfulness and emotion regulation.


“Many marriages run into problems because each partner wrongly believes the following:
“if only my husband (wife) were more (less)…, then I would be happy.”  Or, simply put, “fix him (her)”.  Recognizing and giving up this false belief is one of the most important steps you can take towards improving your marriage.”
– Suzanne Burger


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary

Molajafar, H., Mousavi, S., Lotfi, R., Seyedeh Madineh Ghasemnejad, & Falah, M. (2015). Comparing the effectiveness of mindfulness and emotion regulation training in reduction of marital conflicts. Journal of Medicine and Life, 8(Spec Iss 2), 111–116.



Introduction:this study aimed to compare the effectiveness of mindfulness and emotion regulation training in the reduction of marital conflicts.

Methodology:the present evaluation was a quasi-experimental study with a pretest-posttest design and a control group. The population consisted of all clients who referred to Moein Counseling Center in Alborz province (Spring 2014) due to marital problems. Using the simple random sampling method, 45 married people were selected as the sample and divided into two experimental groups (15 participants in each) and a control group (15 participants). Mindfulness training sessions were held for the first experimental group and emotion regulation training sessions were held for the second experimental group while, the participants in the control group did not receive any training. The Marital Conflicts Questionnaire was used for data collection and the obtained data were analyzed through descriptive statistics and analysis of covariance.

Results: the results confirmed the main hypothesis of this study regarding the effectiveness of mindfulness and emotion regulation training in reduction of marital conflicts (p<0.001, F=43.41).

Discussion and conclusion: there was a significant difference between mindfulness training and emotion regulation training in the reduction of marital conflicts; thus, compared to the mindfulness training, emotion regulation training can be considered a more effective treatment of marital conflicts.


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