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Many couples’ relationship lacks the prosperity that characterize a good marriage. To address this languishing, our study proposes an adaptation of the well-validated intervention Three Good Things, and examines its effectiveness on marital quality. This mixed-method study comprised 134 heterosexual couples, randomly allocated into one of three groups: intervention, placebo, and no-treatment. Participants completed questionnaires aimed at measuring marital satisfaction, intimacy, and burnout, on three time points: before the intervention, immediately following it, and a month afterwards. At the end of the study period, the intervention and placebo groups answered an open-coded question about the effect the intervention had on their relationship. Results showed increased intimacy and decreased burnout in the intervention group, among participants who complied with the study procedure. A qualitative analysis of responses to the open-coded question found that most couples in the intervention group felt that the intervention had positively affected their emotions, behavior, and thinking.
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The Journal of Positive Psychology
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The marital version of three good things: A mixed-
method study
Maayan Boiman-Meshita & Hadassah Littman-Ovadia
To cite this article: Maayan Boiman-Meshita & Hadassah Littman-Ovadia (2020): The marital
version of three good things: A mixed-method study, The Journal of Positive Psychology, DOI:
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Published online: 22 Jan 2020.
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The marital version of three good things: A mixed-method study
Maayan Boiman-Meshita and Hadassah Littman-Ovadia
Department of Behavioral Sciences and Psychology, Ariel University, Ariel, Israel
Many couplesrelationship lacks the prosperity that characterize a good marriage. To address this
languishing, our study proposes an adaptation of the well-validated intervention Three Good
Things, and examines its eectiveness on marital quality. This mixed-method study comprised
134 heterosexual couples, randomly allocated into one of three groups: intervention, placebo, and
no-treatment. Participants completed questionnaires aimed at measuring marital satisfaction,
intimacy, and burnout, on three time points: before the intervention, immediately following it,
and a month afterwards. At the end of the study period, the intervention and placebo groups
answered an open-coded question about the eect the intervention had on their relationship.
Results showed increased intimacy and decreased burnout in the intervention group, among
participants who complied with the study procedure. A qualitative analysis of responses to the
open-coded question found that most couples in the intervention group felt that the intervention
had positively aected their emotions, behavior, and thinking.
Received 16 December 2018
Accepted 9 January 2020
Positive intervention; marital
satisfaction; marital quality;
positive relationships; three
good things
1. Introduction
The ability to love and develop intimate relationships is
a central component of mental health (DeKlyen, Brooks-
Gunn, McLanahan, & Knab, 2006;Erikson,1950;Freud,1961;
Ry&Singer,2000;Sullivan,1955). For most adults, the
closest, deepest, and most meaningful relationship is
usually their marriage (Holt-Lunstad, Birmingham, & Jones,
2008; Montgomery, 2005; Moss & Schwebel, 1993).
A satisfying marriage holds many benets for partners,
such as higher self-esteem, better physical and mental
health, and fewer depressive symptoms (Beach, Arias, &
OLeary, 1986;Culp&Beach,1998;Freudiger,1983;Glenn
&Weaver,1981; Hawkins & Booth, 2005; Kiecolt-Glaser &
Newton, 2001; Voss, Markiewicz, & Doyle, 1999).
Despite the benets of a successful marriage, the pri-
mary focus of marriage counseling has been to assist part-
ners overcome challenges and distress, rather than to help
them create a thriving and fullling relationship (Fincham &
Beach, 2010;Gable&Haidt,2005; Skerrett & Fergus, 2015).
Focusing on the spousesnegative interactions is under-
standable, given rising divorce rates and their conse-
quences, yet most married couples manage to cope with
the many diculties and challenges of their daily routine
and maintain relationships that are relatively free of pain.
Preventing marital suering neither guarantees satisfaction
and growth nor indicates that the relationship is healthy;
marriage (Fincham & Beach, 2010). Consequently, an expli-
cit study of relationship ourishing is warranted in order to
achieve a full and comprehensive understanding of posi-
tive relationship processes.
1.1. Relationship ourishing
Relationship ourishing describes a relationship charac-
terized by satisfaction, happiness, adjustment and inti-
macy (Fincham & Beach, 2010). While relationship
satisfaction, happiness and adjustment are often used
synonymously (Heyman, Sayers, & Bellack, 1994) and
refer to an individuals emotional state of being content
with his or her married life (Ward, Lundberg, Zabriskie, &
Berrett, 2009), intimacy represents the sense of closeness
or sharing with another person (Olson, 1975, as cited in
Schaefer & Olson, 1981). Intimacy is frequently measured
through the PAIR questionnaire (Personal Assessment of
Intimacy in Relationships; Schaefer & Olson, 1981), which
assesses intimacy in several areas, among which are:
emotional intimacy, which describes feelings of close-
ness; social intimacy, describing closeness that stems
from mutual friends and similar social networks; and
recreational intimacy, which describes closeness originat-
ing from jointly participating in recreational activities
such as hobbies and exercise (Schaefer & Olson, 1981).
Beside the presence of positive features like intimacy
and satisfaction, a happy marriage is also characterized
CONTACT Maayan Boiman-Meshita
This study is based on the dissertation of the rst author, carried out under the supervision of the second author.
© 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
by low rates of negative features. One of these negative
features is burnout, dened as a state of emotional,
physical, and mental exhaustion caused by long-term
involvement in an emotionally demanding situation
(Pines, 1996; Pines & Aronson, 1988). A frequently used
instrument to measure burnout is a self-report question-
naire developed by Pines and Aronson (1988), aimed at
assessing burnout in dierent situations.
Many studies have been conducted to examine how
relationship ourishing can be encouraged, and to under-
stand what characterizes successful relationships. Pines
(1996), for example, compared between burned-out and
happily married couples, and found some dierences:
happy couples varied their relationship with positive, rou-
tine-breaking, joint activities, such as a weekly date night.
They reported a better appreciation of their relationship,
and tended to have more and better-quality communica-
tions. Based on these ndings, Pines proposes that in
order to reduce burnout, couples should spice upthe
relationship with new joint activities, focus on the good in
the relationship, and talk more frequently about a wider
range of topics.
One longitudinal study, aimed at discovering what
makes marriage work revealed that a 5:1 ratio between
positive and negative interactions predicted a long-term
marriage, thus emphasizing the importance of positive
interactions between spouses to relationship success
(Gottman, 1994). This nding is supported by other stu-
dies that found that the degree of positivity between
partners expressed through positive communications,
gestures, and memories correlates with the quality of
the relationship (Langhinrichsen-Rohling, Smutzler, &
Vivian, 1994; Marigold, Holmes, & Ross, 2007; Rehman
& Holtzworth-Munroe, 2007), and that sharing positive
events with the partner is associated with higher inti-
macy and higher marital satisfaction (Gable, Reis, Impett,
& Asher, 2004; Otto, Laurenceau, Siegel, & Belcher, 2015).
With this in mind, Gottman et al. (Gottman &
Gottman, 2008; Gottman & Silver, 1999) formulated
seven principles for making marriage work. According
to these principles, in order to nurture the marriage
spouses should highlight the positive aspects of their
partner and their relationship, and express aection and
appreciation in small, everyday moments (Gottman &
Gottman, 2008; Gottman & Silver, 1999).
Aslightlydierent perspective is oered by a study
conducted by Robinson and Price (1980), which showed
that spouses in happy relationships did not necessarily
exhibit more positive acts, but rather noticed them better:
they were more aware of the merits of their partner and
were able to recognize the good aspects in their relation-
ship. This nding emphasizes that awareness of the posi-
tive features of the relationship is just as important as their
being present, and that an intervention that increases
awareness of positive features can potentially improve
relationship quality.
1.2. Three good things
In recent years, a number of interventions aimed at
fostering life satisfaction were developed (e.g., Baucom,
Epstein, LaTaillade, & Kirby, 2008; Dimidjian, Martell, &
Christensen, 2008; Gottman & Silver, 1999; Johnson,
2008). One of the most eective and well-studied inter-
ventions is Three Good Things, in which individuals are
asked to write down three good things that happened to
them that day and the reason they happened (Gander,
Proyer, Ruch, & Wyss, 2013; Seligman, Steen, Park, &
Peterson, 2005). Although the intervention is aimed at
individuals and not couples, Peterson (2006) reports that
during the investigation of Seligman et al. (2005), to
which he contributed, a number of participants decided
to incorporate this exercise into their marital routine and
discuss the good things that happened to them with
their partners every evening. The exercise has many
practical advantages for couples: it is free, easy to carry
out, and can be performed outside a couples therapy
framework. Couples therapy, too, can benet from this
practice: Kauman and Silberman (2009) recommend
conducting an adapted version of this exercise in order
to increase positivity between spouses and enhance
therapy outcomes. Although studies examining the
Three Good Things intervention found dierences in
levels of happiness and depression (Gander et al., 2013;
Seligman et al., 2005), the impact on the participants
relationship has yet to be examined.
1.3. The present study
The aim of the present study is to adapt the Three Good
Thing intervention for couplesuse and examine its out-
comes on the relationship. We assumed that a couples-
adapted intervention directing the partnersattention to
the positive elements of their marriage could spotlight
the merits of the partner and the relationship and
increase the partnersawareness of positive events and
positive emotions. Drawing attention to positive aspects
of the relationship can, in turn, foster a more positive
interpretation of events (Fredrickson, 2000) and cultivate
gratitude in the spouses to each other and for the rela-
tionship, which, according to the nd-remind-and-bind
theory (Algoe, 2012), can improve interpersonal
Furthermore, regular reection on the positive things
in the relationship could prevent or delay the natural
process of hedonic adaptation, and decrease the
likelihood that these events and their accompanying
positive emotions will be overlooked (Bono, Glomb,
Shen, Kim, & Koch, 2013). We assume that these benets
of the intervention will lead to an improvement in mar-
ital quality, which will be assessed in the present study
through marital satisfaction, intimacy and burnout.
In order to assess the eectiveness of the interven-
tion, we conducted a randomized controlled trial exam-
ining the dierences in the abovementioned three
scales among three groups: the intervention group,
where the adapted intervention was applied, and two
control groups, placebo and no-treatment. We hypothe-
sized that couples in the intervention group would exhi-
bit increased levels of marital satisfaction (H1), increased
levels of intimacy (H2), and decreased levels of burnout
(H3) compared to couples in the placebo group or in the
no-treatment group. In order to receive a wider perspec-
tive on the impact of the intervention, we asked partici-
pants to write down their feelings in relation to the
ecacy of the exercise. We performed content analyses
to these responses as well as to what the couples wrote
within the framework of the task. Analyzing the partici-
pantssubjective feelings allowed for a better under-
standing of the manner in which the intervention
aected the couples and their relationship, and for tra-
cing outcomes undetectable by the questionnaires.
Analyzing what the couples wrote within the framework
of the task served to check manipulation, and provided
us with data on the dierences between the experiences
the couples remember in default mode and those they
remember when specically instructed to think of good
The positive-activity model (Lyubomirsky & Layous,
2013), which examines factors contributing to the suc-
cess of positive interventions, suggests that the out-
comes of the intervention depend on personal features
(Lyubomirsky & Layous, 2013). For a person to reap
rewards from positive intervention, he or she has to be
motivated to benet from it, to fully engage with it, and
to perceive support from his or her social environment
(Layous, Lee, Choi, & Lyubomirsky, 2013; Lyubomirsky,
Dickerhoof, Boehm, & Sheldon, 2011; Lyubomirsky &
Layous, 2013). The positive-activity model predicts that
absence of these features may reduce the eectiveness
of the intervention. Although this model does not exam-
ine couples-adapted positive interventions, it seems that
personal features are even more important when the
success of the exercise depends on two people rather
than one: lack of motivation, cooperation, support or
eort by one spouse may aect the other and their
relationship consequences. We assumed that the eec-
tiveness of our couples-adapted intervention would
depend on the spousescooperation and adherence to
the exercise, as it required joint and consistent perfor-
mance of the task during the study period. Therefore, we
incorporated the level of cooperation into our model as
an independent variable.
2. Method
2.1. Participants
The sample comprised 134 heterosexual couples, who
were married between 0.5 to 45 years (M= 7.17,
SD = 8.89). About half of them (47.1%) had children.
Participantsage range was 2072 years (M= 29.90,
SD = 9.77 for men; M= 27.97, SD = 9.11 for women).
Most participants (58.6%) had a university degree, 19.3%
postsecondary education, and 22.1% high-school educa-
tion. Most participants (74.4%) reported a lower than
average income, 7.4% reported an average income,
and the rest (18.2%) a higher than average income.
Twenty-six percent dened themselves as secular, 17%
as Masortim (neither secular nor strictly observant), and
57% dened themselves as religious. All participants
were Jewish and lived in Israel.
Participants were randomly allocated into one of three
groups (intervention group, placebo group, and no-
treatment group) by a computerized random allocation
generator (QuickCalcs,
Six couples (three from the intervention group and
three from the placebo group) dropped out of the study
between the rst and second measurements because of
failure to adhere to the weekly task. Three more couples
(two couples from the placebo group and one from the
no-treatment group) were removed from the study due
to missing data. All 125 remaining couples completed
the tasks and questionnaires. The intervention group
consisted of 40 couples, the placebo group of 39 cou-
ples, and the no-treatment group of 46 couples. There
were no signicant dierences in the demographic vari-
ables or in the pre-test measurement among the groups.
2.2. Measures
Marital satisfaction was measured by the Dyadic
Adjustment Scale (DAS; Spanier, 1976). Although origin-
ally developed to assess couple adjustment, the DAS is
primarily used to measure marital satisfaction
(Christensen, Atkins, Baucom, & Yi, 2010), as was done
in the present study. The DAS is comprised of 32 items
divided into four subscales: consensus, cohesion, satis-
faction, and aectional expression. Participants were
asked to rate the extent to which each item describes
the current state of their marriage. The score for the
scale was the sum rating of the 32 items (range 0151),
with higher scores indicating good marital satisfaction.
This scale has been shown to have very good conver-
gent validity, discriminant validity, and internal consis-
tency (Cuenca Montesino, Graña Gómez, Peña
Fernández, & Andreu Rodríguez, 2013; Heyman et al.,
1994). Cronbachs alphas in the current sample ranged
from 0.91 (for T1 and T2) to 0.93 (for T3).
Intimacy was measured by The Personal Assessment of
Intimacy in Relationships Inventory (PAIR; Schaefer &
Olson, 1981). We used four subscales of the PAIR inven-
tory: emotional intimacy, social intimacy, intellectual
intimacy, and recreational intimacy. Each scale com-
prised six items, rated on a 5-point scale from 0 (strongly
disagree)to4(strongly agree). The score for the instru-
ment was the mean rating of the 24 items, with high
scores representing high intimacy. This scale has been
shown to have high internal consistency (α=0.880.90;
Cowlishaw, Evans, & McLennan, 2010). Internal reliabil-
ities in the present study were good: T1, T2, and T3
alphas were 0.86, 0.87, and 0.88, respectively.
Burnout was assessed by The Burnout Measure (BM;
Pines & Aronson, 1988). This 21-item measure assessed
three dimensions of exhaustion: physical, emotional, and
mental exhaustion. Each item was evaluated on
a 7-point frequency scale, ranging from 0 (never)to6
(always). The score for the measure was the mean rating
of the 21 items, with high scores representing high
burnout. Internal reliabilities in the present study were
very good for all three measures (T1 alpha was 0.91, T2
alpha was 0.92, and T3 alpha was 0.93).
The partnerscooperation was assessed by a Single-item
that asked: What was your partners degree of cooperation
in carrying out the weekly tasks?The options were full
cooperation, partial cooperation, or non-cooperation.
Feelings during and following the intervention were
assessed by an open-coded follow-up question, in which
members of the intervention and placebo groups were
asked to write in their own words if and how their
marriage was aected by the intervention.
2.3. Procedure
Participants were recruited in two ways: most participants
(70 couples) were recruited through advertisements on
notice boards and social media inviting both members of
married couples to participate in the study in return for
a breakfast voucher and entry into a rae for a prize of
$300; the rest (58 couples) were B.A. Psychology students
and their spouses, who were required to participate in
various studies in order to complete their degree.
Upon agreeing to participate in the study, couples
were randomly allocated into one of three groups: the
intervention group, the placebo group, or the no-
treatment group. Then, the rst author contacted the
couples by telephone, explained the study procedure to
them, and sent them a link to a webpage through which
they submitted demographic information and completed
the studys main questionnaires: DAS, PAIR, and BM. Each
participant completed the questionnaire battery indivi-
dually and anonymously, with two numbers used for
identication: personal subject number and the partners
subject number. This allowed us to match spouses and
avoid exposing personal information. Following the rst
measurement, every week during the six-week study
period at a predetermined xed time, the couples
received an e-mail containing their group instructions
(for the intervention and placebo groups) and a single
question about their weekly marital satisfaction (for all
groups). Below are the descriptions of the three groups:
Intervention group
Couples in the intervention group were requested to set
aside 15 minutes per week (Chan, 2010), over six con-
secutive weeks, spend them together, devote this time
to jointly think about three good things that happened
to them as a couple during the week, and write those
three things down as well as the reason they happened.
We changed the frequency of the original interven-
tion out of concern that a daily task would burden the
couples and not give them enough time to create shared
positive experiences, and to help them nd a time when
they could perform the exercise together. The frequency
we chose is based on the work of Lyubomirsky and her
colleagues (Lyubomirsky, Sheldon, & Schkade, 2005),
who found that positive activities performed once
a week resulted in larger increases in well-being com-
pared to those same activities performed throughout
the week. The detailed exercise instructions were:
Once a week, after dinner and before going to sleep, set
aside 15 minutes and spend them with your partner.
During this time, please write down with your partner
three good things that happened to you as a couple during
the week. Do this once a week for six consecutive weeks.
The three good things you list can be of relatively small or
large importance. After each good thing on your list,
answer in your own words the question, Why did this
good thing happen?
Placebo group
Couples in the placebo group received identical instruc-
tions to those above, apart from the word good.This was
done in order to control for the inuence of the couples
spending time together or the task of writing three things
on the results, and to examine the impact of the positive
directedness of the instructions. The justication for our
use of the placebo group is provided by Wood, Froh, and
Geraghty (2010), who claim that the best control groups
are those that are identical in all aspects apart from the
aspect of interest. In the absence of such control groups, it
is dicult to evaluate the eectiveness of the [. . .] compo-
nent of the intervention compared to the other more
generic aspects(p. 898).
No-treatment group
Couples in the no-treatment group did not receive any
weekly task. This group was selected in order to assess
the dierence between changes created following the
intervention and what occurs without any intervention.
Every week, after completing their task, couples from
the intervention and placebo groups were asked to
submit their responses online.
In order to monitor changes over time, data from
DAS, PAIR, and BM questionnaires were collected on
three time points: before the intervention (T1), immedi-
ately following the six-week study period (T2), and
a month later (T3). At the end of the intervention, parti-
cipants completed the follow-up and the cooperation
3. Results
For each of the three measures marital satisfaction,
intimacy, and burnout we conducted a linear mixed
model analysis. All models included time, group, gender
and level of cooperation (full cooperation/non-full coop-
eration), and their full 2-, 3- and 4-way interactions as
xed eects. Couples were modeled as a random factor,
with a maximal random eects structure of time, gender
and their 2-way interaction as random eects (Barr, Levy,
Scheepers, & Tily, 2013). As all predictors are categorical,
we report here ANOVA-like omnibus F-tests for main
eects and interaction. We used Satterthwaite approx-
imation of denominator degrees of freedom for all F-
and t-tests (Kuznetsova, Brockho, & Christensen, 2016;
Satterthwaite, 1941).
3.1. Preliminary analyses
Prior to investigating the studys hypotheses, and so that
the changes could be attributed to the intervention, we
examined marital satisfaction, intimacy, and burnout in
the three groups at baseline. There were no signicant
dierences among the groups in marital satisfaction (F
(2,143.75) = 0.62, p= 0.54), intimacy (F(2,138.97) = 1.25,
p= 0.29), or burnout (F(2,142.59) = 0.74, p= 0.48).
Table 1 shows the means and standard deviations for
all dependent measures (marital satisfaction, intimacy,
and burnout) used in this study for the intervention,
placebo, and no-treatment groups. The correlations
among the three measures ranged from 0.50 to 0.66
on T1, 0.51 to 0.68 on T2, and 0.45 to 0.71 on T3. The
lowest correlations were between the intimacy and
burnout scores, and the highest were between the inti-
macy and marital satisfaction scores. As expected, inti-
macy and marital satisfaction were positively correlated
with each other and inversely correlated with burnout
3.2. Cooperation testing
An examination of the participantsresponses about
their level of cooperation with the studys tasks found
that 31 couples of the intervention group, 34 of the
placebo group, and 38 of the no-treatment group
reported full cooperation. These are 82% of participants,
without signicant dierences among the dierent
groups (x2(2) = 1.053, p= n.s.). In the preliminary ana-
lyses, there were no signicant dierences in any of the
studys variables between couples who reported full
cooperation and those who did not.
3.3. Hypotheses testing
In all three analyses, we were interested in the group*-
time interaction, which would indicate that changes in
the outcome measured over time were dependent on
the dierent groups. To account for level of cooperation,
Table 1. Means and standard deviations of measures outcome by group, gender, and time-point.
Group Measure
Time 1 Time 2 Time 3
Male Female Male Female Male Female
Intervention (n= 40) Satisfaction 122.72 11.64 121.43 10.61 122.55 10.64 120.48 10.82 123.13 12.63 121.00 13.14
Intimacy 2.97 0.45 3.01 0.44 2.99 0.43 3.08 0.46 3.01 0.48 3.11 0.41
Burnout 1.32 0.58 1.65 0.57 1.36 0.56 1.53 0.54 1.19 0.52 1.46 0.62
Placebo (n= 39) Satisfaction 124.73 14.46 125.51 11.88 123.13 15.76 123.84 11.38 124.54 15.95 123.95 10.79
Intimacy 3.02 0.47 3.12 0.54 3.07 0.43 3.12 0.51 3.15 0.43 3.14 0.51
Burnout 1.56 0.74 1.60 0.67 1.34 0.73 1.56 0.69 1.28 0.71 1.54 0.68
No-treatment (n= 46) Satisfaction 122.70 13.64 119.76 17.49 122.28 15.39 118.93 16.26 122.61 16.37 120.33 17.22
Intimacy 2.99 0.56 2.90 0.63 2.95 0.57 2.86 0.67 2.92 0.63 2.89 0.68
Burnout 1.32 0.73 1.59 0.71 1.33 0.80 1.71 0.89 1.34 0.96 1.56 0.86
in cases of group*time*cooperation interactions, we
examined the simple group*time interaction within
both cooperation groups.
Marital satisfaction
We found no signicant interaction between time and
group on marital satisfaction (F(4,209.75) = 0.69,
p= 0.60), as well as no interaction among time, group
and cooperation level (F(4,209.75) = 1.27, p= 0.60). We
also found no signicant main eect for time (F)
2,209.80) = 0.94, p= 0.39), or an interaction between
time and level of cooperation (F(2,209.80) = 0.62,
p= 0.54). Thus, inconsistent with our rst hypothesis,
marital satisfaction has not changed over time.
We found a signicant interaction among time, group and
cooperation levels (F(4,130.28) = 2.86, p= 0.03, η
Asignicant simple interaction between time and group
was found within the cooperation group (F(4,162.99) = 2.49,
p= 0.04, η
=0.08), but not within the non-cooperation
group (F(4,162.01) = 2.10, p= 0.09). When the eect of time
was examined separately for each condition within the
cooperation group, a signicant eect on intimacy was
observed for the intervention group (F(2,138.14) = 4.70,
p= 0.01, η
=0.06), but not for the placebo and the no-
treatment groups (F(2,140.06) = 1.40, p= 0.25; F
(2,139.01) = 0.61, p= 0.55). Bonferonni post-hoc test was
conducted for the intervention group within the coopera-
tion condition, comparing the three time points. The
results, presented in Figure 1, revealed a signicant increase
in intimacy one month following the intervention. At the
one-month follow-up, couples in the intervention group
reported higher intimacy compared to their baseline. The
results, therefore, supported our second hypothesis.
We found a signicant group*time interaction on burnout
(F(4,138.69) = 4.10, p< 0.01, η
=0.11). An unexpected
signicant simple eect for time was observed for the no-
treatment group (F(2,186.26) = 5.33, p<0.01, η
but not for the intervention group (F(2,186.07) = 1.55.
p= 0.21), or the placebo group (F(2,186.23) = 2.71,
p=0.07). Bonferonni post-hoc tests were conducted for
the no-treatment group, comparing the three time points.
Burnout was found to increase from T1 to T2
(t(470.1) = 3.16, p< 0.01).
However, we also found a signicant group*time*-
cooperation interaction (F(4,138.69) = 3.97, p< 0.01,
=0.10). A signicant simple interaction between
time and group was found within the cooperation
group (F(4,179.97) = 2.44, p= 0.04, η
=0.05), as well
as within the non-cooperation group (F(4,179.97) = 2.57,
p= 0.03, η
=0.05). When the eect of time was
examined separately for each condition within the coop-
eration group, a signicant eect on burnout was
observed for the intervention group (F(2,186.07) = 8.44.
p< 0.01, η
=0.08), and for the placebo group (F
(2,187.11) = 6.51, p< 0.01, η
=0.06), but not for the no-
treatment group (F(2,187.11) = 0.67, p= 0.51).
Bonferonni post-hoc tests were conducted for the inter-
vention and placebo groups, comparing the three time
points. As expected, burnout decreased signicantly at
one-month follow-up in the intervention group.
However, unexpectedly, the same pattern was observed
in the placebo control group. Therefore, our third
hypothesis was only partially supported. The changes
in burnout over time within the cooperation group are
presented in Figure 2.
When the eect of time was examined separately for
each condition within the non-cooperation group, an unex-
pected signicant eect on burnout was observed for the
no-treatment group (F(2,186.07) = 6.69, p<0.01, η
but not for the intervention group (F(2,186.07) = 1.39.
p= 0.25), or the placebo group (F(2,186.07) = 1.13,
p=0.32). Bonferonni post-hoc tests were conducted for no-
treatment group, comparing the three time points. Burnout
was found to increase from T1 to T2 (t(470.1) = 3.64,
p< 0.01).
3.4. Qualitative analyses of the participants
responses during the study
In the qualitative part of our study, we analyzed the
open-coded responses by reducing them into minimal
content units that include a single description of an
Intervention Placebo No-treatment
Changes in intimacy (T3-T1)
Figure 1. Changes in intimacy within the cooperation group
between baseline (T1) and the follow-up measurement
*p< 0.05
activity (as done by Littman-Ovadia & Nir, 2014). This
resulted in 1125 descriptions: 556 described activities
of couples from the intervention group, and 569
described activities of couples from the placebo group.
We identied common themes and created 18 cate-
gories based on them. For instance, descriptions such
as we went joggingwere categorized as sports and
hobbies, and descriptions such as we had a good con-
versationwere categorized as positive communication.
Two referees (one with a Ph.D. in Psychology and
the second with a B.A. in Psychology) independently
assigned the responses into one of the 18 categories.
Reliability between the referees was good (kappa = 0.75),
and dierences were resolved through discussion.
Following the assignment, categories that included
fewer than 2% of responses were unied with other
related categories. Thus, work tasksand school tasks
merged into work and school tasks,and negative com-
municationand negative eventsmerged into negative
events and communication.This resulted in 16 cate-
gories of the spousescommon activities. Figure 3 pre-
sents the frequency of each category for the intervention
and placebo groups.
In order to examine whether categories frequencies
were dependent on groups, we conducted 16 Chi-
squared tests, one for each category. Table 2 shows the
16 categories, examples for each category, their frequen-
cies for both intervention and placebo groups, and W2
values comparing the conditions.
As depicted in Table 2, signicant group dierences
were found in seven categories. Responses focused on
errands, quality time at home, negative events, and
sports and hobbies were signicantly more frequently
mentioned in the placebo group ðx21ðÞ¼4:05;
p<0:05 x21ðÞ¼4:3;p<0:05 x21ðÞ¼11:5;p<0:01;x21ðÞ
¼5:62;p<0:05, respectively); and responses focused on
positive communication, tours and vacations, and acts of
kindness by one of the spouses were signicantly more
frequently mentioned in the intervention group ðx21
p<0:001, respectively).
3.4. Qualitative analyses of the participants
responses in the follow-up
At the end of the study period, participants were asked
to write in their own words if and how the intervention
aected their marriage. In line with the results of the
quantitative analyses, most couples from the interven-
tion group (66%) reported that the intervention had
aected their relationship, compared to only 45% from
the placebo control group. Out of the responses of those
66% of couples in the intervention group, 77% described
Intervention Placebo No-treatment
Changes in burnout (T3-T1)
Figure 2. Changes in burnout within the cooperation group
between baseline (T1) and the follow-up measurement (T3).
*p< 0.05
Descriptions of couples' activities
Figure 3. Descriptions of couplesactivities per category for the intervention and placebo control groups.
an unequivocally positive eect. The rest of the
responses reported increased awareness and a change
of perspective.
The analysis of the couplesreports yielded three dif-
ferent ways through which the intervention aected the
relationship: rst, the exercise directed participantsatten-
tion to the merits of their spouse and of their relationship,
and enhanced positive feelings such as appreciation and
sense of closeness; second, the intervention established
a special weekly quality time for the couples, during which
they discussed their relationship and fostered their com-
munication; lastly, the intervention encouraged couples
to initiate joint activities during the week.
4. Discussion
This study was designed to examine whether a simple
positive intervention, which can be performed indepen-
dently and without external help, can decrease burnout
and increase intimacy and satisfaction among married
couples. Our ndings point to the long-term benets of
this intervention, observed both in the qualitative ana-
lyses of the participantswritten responses and in the
quantitative analyses of the questionnaires, and show
that the intervention can, under certain circumstances,
decrease burnout, increase intimacy, and increase
appreciation towards the marriage and its merits.
Contrary to our rst hypothesis, marital satisfaction has
not changed over time. This nding is supported by
Dandeneau and Johnson (1994), who argue that in rela-
tionships that are relatively distress-free, marital satisfaction
is rather stable and not sensitive to short-span
interventions. The couples participating in our study
reported high levels of marital satisfaction already in the
rst measurement, which may have limited the possibility
of improving their marital satisfaction as measured by
the DAS.
Intimacy increased in the intervention group, but only
among couples who reported full cooperation. Our second
hypothesis, therefore, was only supported for those cou-
ples. The increase in intimacy was observed in the inter-
vention group but not in the placebo group, suggesting
that the impact of writing together the good things the
couple has done during the week is larger than that of
spending time together, and of discussing and writing
down the joint experiences that occurred during the week.
According to the interpersonal process model (Reis &
Shaver, 1988), intimacy is an interactive process that
begins when one partner relates a thought, emotion,
or information to the other, and continues depending
on the partners response. If the response is accepting,
supporting, and interested, it will validate the feelings of
the sharer, make him or her feel understood and appre-
ciated, and lead to the creation of intimacy. However, if
the response is not interested or adequate, intimacy will
not be developed (Gable & Reis, 2001). Studies in the
eld of capitalization support this model, and argue that
capitalization, which describes a process in which one
shares a positive event he or she has experienced with
someone else, is associated with increases in positive
emotions and in mental well-being, beyond the increase
caused by the event itself (Gable, Gonzaga, & Strachman,
2006; Ilies, Keeney, & Scott, 2011). The positive eect of
capitalization is largely dependent on the response of
Table 2. 16 categories of couplesactivities, their frequencies for both intervention and placebo conditions, and x2values comparing
the conditions.
Category Examples
(n= 556)
(n= 569)
(df =1)
Holiday activities We had a holiday dinner; we lit Chanukah candles 2.3% 3.7% 1.76
Activities with friends We had friends over; we visited friends on Saturday 6.5% 6.7% 0.02
Activities with family We met our family; we had my sister over 9.7% 9.5% 0.02
Quality time at home We watched a movie together; we ate dinner together 18.7% 23.7% 4.3*
Quality time outside the home We went to a movie; we went to a restaurant 9.4% 10.0% 0.14
Work and school tasks We studied together; we put our business aairs in order 2.7% 2.5% 0.06
Household tasks We put together a couch; we hung our laundry to dry 4.0% 4.2% 0.05
Special positive events We went to a Bat Mitzvah party; we found out we are pregnant 8.8% 7.6% 0.59
Negative events and
We had a ght; we went to a funeral 0.5% 3.3% 11.50**
Enjoyable tasks We went shopping; we changed our sweet babys diapers 5.0% 6.7% 1.38
Errands We went to the bank; we went to the auto repair shop 4.7% 7.6% 4.05*
Sports and hobbies We exercised together; we went to a folk dancing lesson 1.8% 4.2% 5.62*
Act of kindness by one of the
I surprised my wife; my partner cooked a hot and comforting soup
for me
5.2% 0.7% 20.11***
Positive communications We had a good conversation; we were laughing so hard we were in
11.0% 4.4% 17.23***
Intimacy We made love; we massaged each other 2.7% 1.9% 0.73
Tours and vacations We enjoyed the snow; we went on a trip 7.0% 3.3% 7.77**
*p< 0.05 **p< 0.01 **p< 0.001
the person with whom the event is shared (Gable et al.,
2004; Ilies et al., 2011). When the receiver responds in
a supportive manner, closeness and intimacy increase;
but when the receiver reacts passively or destructively,
intimacy either decreases or remains unchanged (Gable
et al., 2006,2004). The development of intimacy as
described by the interpersonal process model explains
why the spouses in our study who complied with the
study procedure created a positive and supportive
atmosphere and increased intimacy. By contrast, when
one of the spouses was not cooperative, whether he or
she reacted passively or, worse still, destructively, the
response left the other spouse with unpleasant feelings
and prevented the increase of closeness and the devel-
opment of intimacy.
Our third hypothesis was partially supported: the
intervention reduced burnout among couples who
reported full cooperation in the intervention group,
but also in the placebo group. This nding suggests
that devoting time to discuss joint experiences positively
aects the relationship, even when the experiences
themselves are not positive. This is in line with the con-
servation of resources theory, which claims that spend-
ing time with a loved one is a valuable resource capable
of reducing burnout (Hobfoll, 1989). Other studies in the
eld of burnout provide further explanations: couples
with low burnout rates are characterized by many high-
quality interactions, and often vary their relationship
with new and dierent activities (Pines, 1996).
Performing new activities together was found to assist
self-expansion, and was proposed by theoreticians and
researchers as a means to reduce burnout and prevent
damaging aection and marital quality (E. N. Aron &
Aron, 1996). In the current study, the exercises per-
formed by the couples in the intervention and placebo
groups encouraged the elements characterizing low-
burnout couples, by allocating a xed time during
which the spouses performed a new and unusual task
that diversied the relationship. Furthermore, the cou-
plesdiscussions about the things they have experienced
together over the week created a designated time for
couple communication, thus increasing the frequency of
couple interactions. Discussing the relationship helps
spouses to solve problems and recall shared experi-
ences. Moreover, when partners talk to each other
about their relationship, instead of to a third party like
a friend or a therapist, they tend to experience less
burnout (Pines, 1996).
A surprising nding of our study concerned the cou-
ples who reported lack of cooperation. Among these
couples, it was found that burnout increased in the no-
treatment group, but remained unchanged in the other
two groups. One possible explanation for this nding is
that the lack of cooperation increased negative feelings
among participants, which were reected in the comple-
tion of the BM, and were not observed in the other two
groups because the weekly exercise they have per-
formed countered burnout.
Our study found that changes were observed only
one month after the intervention, and not immediately
upon its completion. This nding is in line with the
results of a previous study examining the eects of this
intervention on individuals: depressive symptoms were
reduced and happiness was increased in measurements
conducted one, three, and six months after the interven-
tion, but not immediately following it (Seligman et al.,
The results of the qualitative analyses of the partici-
pantsresponses indicate that the addition of a single
word (good)to the instructions of the intervention
group helped create dierences between the interven-
tion and placebo groups. When couples were not
instructed to focus on good experiences, they tended
to report errands, negative communication, and nega-
tive experiences. However, when couples were directed
to focus on good experiences, they reported with higher
frequency about positive communication, vacations
they went on, and positive gestures towards the spouse.
A study examining an intervention aimed at increasing
optimism found that in the absence of the specic direc-
tive to think about positive things, participants thought
more about inconveniences, obligations, and chores
they had to perform (Littman-Ovadia & Nir, 2014). The
researchers suggest that their ndings reveal the dier-
ence between what one contemplates in default mode
and when there is positive guidance, pointing to the fact
that the default mode consists of things that may trigger
negative emotions. Our ndings are in line with those of
the optimism study: the couplesdefault mode included
errands and negative interactions that may cause ten-
sion in the relationship. The positive guidance decreased
the negative factors and had one more advantage
recalling positive events that may have been otherwise
overlooked. The current study suggests that there are
many experiences and interactions that the couple tends
to recall less frequently without explicit guidance to
focus on positive elements. Experiences such as a good
conversation between partners, an enjoyable outdoor
excursion, or nice gestures towards the spouse, which
were reported with higher frequency in the intervention
group, represent good moments in the relationship that
are sometimes taken for granted. The strength of this
intervention is in emphasizing these events and making
the couple conscious of them. Because of the natural
tendency to direct more attention to negative events, it
is important to emphasize the simple, positive events
that happen every day.
The participantsresponses at the end of the study
period also point to the eectiveness of the intervention,
and present the dierences in subjective feelings about
the impact of the task between the intervention group
and the two control groups. While close to 70% of
participants in the intervention group felt that the exer-
cise aected their relationship, only 45% of the placebo
group reported a similar feeling. These ndings suggest
that directing participants to focus on the positive
events creates a more powerful, meaningful, and enrich-
ing experience than in situations where this guidance is
Apart from emphasizing the importance of positive
guidance, analyzing the participantswritten responses
illuminates the nature of the impact of the intervention.
From the subjectsresponses it appears that the inter-
vention decreased burnout and increased intimacy
through cognitive, behavioral, and emotional changes.
Cognitively, the intervention changed the perspective
through which the partners considered each other and
the relationship: following the intervention, participants
reported greater attention to the positive elements of
the relationship. Behaviorally, the intervention led parti-
cipants to initiate enjoyable joint activities. Emotionally,
the intervention increased positive emotions such as
fondness and closeness. These changes point to the
benets of the intervention and its wide-ranging impact.
This study has several limitations. Most signicantly, the
intervention was found to be eective only for couples
who reported full cooperation with the study procedure.
An analysis representing only the couples who complied
with the study procedure is called a per-protocol analysis
(PP), and it reects the eects of the intervention unaf-
fected by, for example, protocol deviations or non-
adherence (Sedgwick, 2015).APPanalysisismoreoften
used in explanatory trials that aim to measure the eects of
an intervention under ideal or experimental conditions, as
was done in the current study. The PP analysis provides the
ideal scenario in which all participants comply, and is more
likely to show an eect (Thabane et al., 2013). Even so, it is
important to keep in mind that PP analyses increase the risk
of bias when evaluating the results of randomized con-
trolled trials (Sedgwick, 2015).
This study is also limited by its reliance on Jewish-
Israeli heterosexual couples, who reported high satisfac-
tion rates already in the rst measurement. Future
research on larger and more diverse samples is impor-
tant for determining the generalizability of the ndings.
Lastly, the study did not examine the participants
adherence to the task after the six-week study period,
and so conclusions cannot be drawn about the level of
the coupleslong-term responsiveness. We recommend
that follow-up studies will examine these issues.
Despite its limitations, this is the rst study, as far as
we know, that adapted the simple positive intervention
Three Good Things for couples use, and examined its
consequences on the quality of marital relationship. In
so doing, the study pioneers the application on couples
of a positive intervention proven eective on individuals.
Our ndings point to the eectiveness of the interven-
tion, and justify the adaptation and analysis of more
positive interventions for couples. Many couples facing
diculties in their marriage do not turn to external
assistance because of various obstacles, such as fear of
stigma, nancial or logistical diculties, or lack of joint
free time (Cicila, Georgia, & Doss, 2014). The intervention
we propose has the potential to overcome these obsta-
cles, and thus assist the general public to improve their
relationship independently, without special assistance or
tools, free of charge, and in a short time. The interven-
tion is not intended to replace assistance in times of
crisis, but it can, under certain circumstances, decrease
burnout, improve intimacy, and strengthen the
The authors would like to thank Dr. Boris I. Mints for his
generous support of this research.
Disclosure statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the authors.
The rst author received nancial support for her Ph.D. studies
from Ariel University.
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Numerous studies examined the association between character strengths—positive traits that comprise a good personality—and satisfaction with different aspects of life. However, few studies explored the connection between character strengths and marital satisfaction. The present study, conducted on a sample of 177 married couples, aims to examine this connection. Given the findings of previous studies, showing that both spouses’ personality traits contribute to relationship quality, we expect to find a connection between the spouses’ strengths and their marital quality. Using actor-partner interdependence model analyses, we examined the effects of three strengths factors (caring, self-control, and inquisitiveness) of both the individual and the partner on marital quality, evaluated by indices measuring marital satisfaction, intimacy, and burnout. Our findings revealed that the individual’s three strengths factors were related to all of his or her marital quality indices (actor effects). Moreover, women’s caring, inquisitiveness and self-control factors were associated with men’s marital quality, and men’s inquisitiveness and self-control factors were associated with women’s marital quality (partner effects). Our findings join the efforts of previous studies to understand the association between character strengths and the various elements of mental well-being, especially romantic relationships.
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One of the frequent questions by users of the mixed model function lmer of the lme4 package has been: How can I get p values for the F and t tests for objects returned by lmer? The lmerTest package extends the 'lmerMod' class of the lme4 package, by overloading the anova and summary functions by providing p values for tests for fixed effects. We have implemented the Satterthwaite's method for approximating degrees of freedom for the t and F tests. We have also implemented the construction of Type I - III ANOVA tables. Furthermore, one may also obtain the summary as well as the anova table using the Kenward-Roger approximation for denominator degrees of freedom (based on the KRmodcomp function from the pbkrtest package). Some other convenient mixed model analysis tools such as a step method, that performs backward elimination of nonsignificant effects - both random and fixed, calculation of population means and multiple comparison tests together with plot facilities are provided by the package as well.
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Researchers evaluated the effectiveness of a self management programme for arthritis on the overall function of patients with osteoarthritis in primary care. A randomised controlled trial study design was used. The intervention was attendance at six sessions of self management of arthritis, plus an education booklet. The control group received the education booklet only. Participants were patients aged 50 years or more who had osteoarthritis of the hips or knees (or both) and pain or disability (or both). In total, 812 patients were recruited and randomised to the intervention (n=406) or control (n=406).1 The primary outcome was quality of life, as assessed by the short form health survey (SF-36). Secondary outcomes included physical and psychosocial measures. Outcome measures were recorded by postal questionnaires, collected at baseline and 12 months. Analysis was performed on an intention to treat approach. The researchers reported that the intervention group showed a significant reduction on the anxiety subscore of the hospital anxiety and depression scale at 12 months (mean difference 0.62, 95% confidence interval 0.16 to 1.08). The intervention group also showed a significant improvement on the arthritis self efficacy scale for pain (0.98, 0.07 to 1.89) and self efficacy for other aspects of management (1.58, 0.25 to 2.90). Per protocol analysis produced similar results to the intention to treat analysis with respect to significant findings. It was concluded that the self management of arthritis programme reduced anxiety and improved participants’ perceived self efficacy to manage symptoms, although it had no significant effect on pain, physical functioning, or …
Integrative Behavioral Couple Therapy (IBCT) is based in part on traditional behavioral couple therapy but expands both the conceptualization of couple distress and of intervention. The efficacy of IBCT has been supported in three clinical trials, including one with five year follow-up. Additionally, the effectiveness of IBCT in the real world has been supported through a system-wide dissemination effort in the United States Department of Veteran's Affairs. The reach of IBCT has also been extended through an online program,, based on IBCT. A nationwide clinical trial with a representative sample of the US population demonstrated the effectiveness of this program on both relationship and individual variables.
This distinctive volume expands our understanding of couple resilience by identifying and exploring specific mechanisms unique to intimate relationships that facilitate positive adaptation to life challenges. Committed partnerships represent a unique form of relational alliance that offers an opportunity and challenge to go beyond the self - to develop as individuals and as a relationship. The contributors to this volume represent a range of perspectives that integrate conventional relationship science and innovative empirical and theoretical work on the importance of meaning-making, narrative construction, intersubjectivity, forgiveness, and positive emotion in couple life. The volume also offers a unique anchor point - We-ness as it relates to the intersection between shared, personal identity and well-being. Under-examined relational contexts such as resilience among LGBT partners and sexual resilience during illness adds further refinement of thought and application.
This three-week longitudinal field study with an experimental intervention examines the association between daily events and employee stress and health, with a specific focus on positive events. Results suggest that both naturally occurring positive work events and a positive reflection intervention are associated with reduced stress and improved health, though effects vary across momentary, lagged, daily, and day-to-evening spillover analyses. Findings are consistent with theory-based predictions: positive events, negative events, and family-to-work conflict independently contribute to perceived stress, blood pressure, physical symptoms, mental health, and work detachment, suggesting that organizations should focus not only on reducing negative events, but also on increasing positive events. These findings show that a brief, end-of-workday positive reflection led to decreased stress and improved health in the evening.
This study considered the role of perceptions of relationship positivity—specifically, positive communication, caring gestures, and recollections of happiest times—in discordant clinic (n = 81) versus nondiscordant community (n = 51) couples. Marriage positivity was also examined in three subgroups of clinic couples who differed as to whether the husband was nonaggressive, mildly aggressive, or severely aggressive. As expected, spouses in nondistressed community marriages reported more frequent and higher quality positive communication and longer lasting and more recent happiest memories than did the clinic spouses. However, the discordant clinic husbands evaluated their wives' caring behavior as more negative than their own behavior, while nondiscordant community husbands described their wives' caring behavior as more positive. Measures of relationship positivity also differentiated aggressive from nonaggressive clinic subgroups even when the subgroups were equated for marital adjustment levels.
An examination of the variables affecting life satisfaction in three categories of married women—those who are presently, formerly, and never employed—reveals that, while there are little differences among the three categories in overall life satisfaction, there are significant differences in the variables that influence life satisfaction for each category. Regression analysis revealed that variables which previous research indicates are salient for women are most predictive of life satisfaction in never-employed wives. Currently and formerly employed wives apparently draw on less traditional sources of satisfaction than do never-employed wives. The impact of former employment on the lives of housewives apparently merits continued research.
Data from six U.S. national surveys are used to compare the estimated contributions to global happiness of marital happiness and satisfaction with each of seven aspects of life, ranging from work to friendships. Separate estimates are provided for white men, white women, black men, and black women. Except for black men, the estimated contribution of marital happiness is far greater than the estimated contribution of any of the kinds of satisfaction, including satisfaction with work. These findings, considered in conjunction with other evidence, indicate that Americans depend very heavily on their marriages for their psychological well-being. Some implications of the findings are discussed.