Forgiveness-Reconciliation and Communication-Conflict-Resolution Interventions Versus Retested Controls in Early Married Couples

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Abstract

The first 6 months of marriage are optimal for marriage enrichment interventions. The Hope-Focused Approach to couple enrichment was presented as two 9-hr interventions—(a) Handling Our Problems Effectively (HOPE), which emphasized communication and conflict resolution, and (b) Forgiveness and Reconciliation through Experiencing Empathy (FREE). HOPE and FREE were compared with repeated assessment controls. Couples were randomly assigned and were assessed at pretreatment (t1); 1 month posttreatment (t2) and at 3- (t3), 6- (t4), and 12-month (t5) follow-ups using self-reports. In addition to self-report measures, couples were assessed at t1, t2, and t5 using salivary cortisol, and behavioral coding of decision making. Of 179 couples who began the study, 145 cases were analyzed. Both FREE and HOPE produced lasting positive changes on self-reports. For cortisol reactivity, HOPE and FREE reduced reactivity at t2, but only HOPE at t5. For coded behaviors, control couples deteriorated; FREE and HOPE did not change. Enrichment training was effective regardless of the focus of the training.

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