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August 10, 2023

Jess & Brandon’s Latest Argument. And A 7-Minute Solution

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Looking for a quick exercise to offset the potentially harmful effects of conflict?

Jess & Brandon explore a 7-minute solution to support “cognitive reappraisal” as they share the details of their latest fight: the Popsicle incident.

In one study, three simple 7-minute writing interventions over the course of a year were shown to improve relationship quality in newlyweds and long-term couples alike. Have a listen to learn more and give it a try yourself to improve your relationship in just 21 minutes per year.

And if you have podcast questions, please submit them here. You can find the podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotifyPodbeanGoogle Podcasts, Amazon MusicStitcher!

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Rough Transcript:

This is a computer-generated rough transcript, so please excuse any typos. This podcast is an informational conversation and is not a substitute for medical, health, or other professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the services of an appropriate professional should you have individual questions or concerns.

Jess & Brandon’s Latest Argument. And A 7-Minute Solution

Episode 329

[00:00:00] You’re listening to the sex with Dr. Jess podcast, sex and relationship advice you can use tonight.

[00:00:15] Brandon Ware: Welcome to the sex with Dr. Jess podcast. Today we’re going to be diving into an exercise that just brought to my attention and asked us or asked me to define or what would you say? Write out, explain our most recent argument.

[00:00:29] Jess O’Reilly: Yes, from a neutral perspective. So we’re going to try an exercise that has been shown to lead to happier relationships, and it relates to conflict and how we view it. And so basically, Brendan and I wrote out Why are you laughing? How we view because honestly, I can’t even finish a sentence because we had to describe our most recent conflict from a neutral perspective, and I think we sound ridiculous.

[00:00:55] Jess O’Reilly: Like speed bags. It’s about popsicles. I was going to say that. The conflict is about, it’s about chill pops.

[00:01:00] Brandon Ware: My headline for the, for this was the popsicle fight.

[00:01:04] Jess O’Reilly: Oh my gosh.

[00:01:04] Brandon Ware: I’m like, oh man.

[00:01:06] Jess O’Reilly: Okay, let me give you a bit of background on this exercise. So, you know, it comes from this study where researchers from four different universities were working with 120 couples over the course of two years.

[00:01:14] Jess O’Reilly: So some of these couples were newlyweds and some had been married for years. And during the first year of the study, all participants, all couples were assigned to write about the most significant marital conflict they had experienced in the previous four months. So they did this three times a year, and they were also collecting info on, you know, their relationship overall.

[00:01:34] Jess O’Reilly: So intimacy, trust, passion, commitment, satisfaction, and love. So that’s what they did in the first year. They, three times a year, they wrote about their most significant marital conflict. After year one, the whole group was divided in two. So one group, the control group, kept doing the same activity that they did in the first year, wrote about their most significant conflict.

[00:01:52] Jess O’Reilly: But the second group, did an additional writing activity that took around seven minutes on average. And so the quote,

[00:02:00] each partner wrote about the conflict from the perspective of an impartial observer who wants the best for both partners. So they did this three times a year and apparently it made a really significant difference.

[00:02:12] Jess O’Reilly: Just writing about the conflict from a neutral perspective, from the perspective of somebody who wants. both parties to come out on top as a team. And with just three seven minute writing exercises or interventions, they saw really interesting results. And so I’ll quote to you from the lead author and psychology prof, Eli Finkel.

[00:02:33] Jess O’Reilly: So for couples in the control group, consistent with several previous studies, unfortunately, marital quality declined over the two year period. Likewise, the same measures fell among spouses in the intervention condition during the first year of the study before the additional writing assignment began.

[00:02:50] Jess O’Reilly: So basically both groups saw a decline in quality of relationship over the first year, which is typical. But then in year two, the decline stop for the couples who were doing the additional writing intervention. So levels of mutual happiness and satisfaction remained where they were at the end of the first year, and this was true regardless of how long they had been married.

[00:03:13] Jess O’Reilly: And they also reported that the couples who had done the extra writing intervention also found their fights to be significantly less distressing. So seeing things from a neutral perspective shifted the way they viewed Conflict. And it’s interesting because I think about this often when we’re fighting.

[00:03:28] Jess O’Reilly: I always think, okay, how am I behaving? Would I be okay with my behavior with my language with my tone with the way i’m treating you? Would I be embarrassed if someone else was watching or listening?

[00:03:39] Brandon Ware: That’s what I always think. I always think about a third person sitting in observing and then Being able to comment after about, Hey, Brandon, do you want to reflect back on how you said that or what you said?

[00:03:49] Brandon Ware: But I want to just highlight before we continue that this was not the most significant argument. When we go to the do do popsicle fight.

[00:03:57] Jess O’Reilly: Oh my god, I’m nervous to [00:04:00] go over because I think we’re going to look like idiots. But just quickly, this intervention, so this writing intervention is referred to, you know, it’s a form of cognitive reappraisal.

[00:04:07] Jess O’Reilly: So when we think about things differently, it can change our emotional response. in the moment or after and it changes the way we frame the meaning of the conflict or the incident or what happened and that helps it and it just helps to use a more neutral lens and so I’m going to note that in the study it wasn’t about sharing each perspective it wasn’t like I would come to Brandon with what I wrote down and he would come to me with what he wrote down but I do think that could be helpful.

[00:04:35] Jess O’Reilly: And we do resolve a lot of our issues in writing.

[00:04:40] Brandon Ware: I would agree. And sometimes via text or WhatsApp.

[00:04:43] Jess O’Reilly: Which I know people don’t like. You’ll hear a lot of therapists, a lot of experts say text lacks the tone, the nuance, the body language, the facial expressions. But I do think it partly has to do with me being so literal that seeing things in writing really helps me to be more neutral.

[00:05:01] Brandon Ware: And for me, putting things in writings help, helps me remember things because I get flooded during arguments and I can’t remember things that I’ve said or things that I’ve heard. So when I can look back in writing, it’s a great way for me to be able to reflect on things and, and it also makes me think about the things I’m putting in writing before I send them.

[00:05:18] Jess O’Reilly: Okay. Do you wanna continue procrastinating or do we wanna share our ridiculous pop fight? .

[00:05:23] Brandon Ware: Here we go. I, I’m ready to go. But you, you, you,

[00:05:25] Jess O’Reilly: do you wanna go first?

[00:05:26] Brandon Ware: You read first.

[00:05:26] Jess O’Reilly: Do you wanna rock, paper, scissors?

[00:05:28] Brandon Ware: All right, let’s rock. Paper. Scissors. Ready?

[00:05:29] Jess O’Reilly: Okay. 1, 2, 3. Good old rock. Nothing beat rock.

[00:05:33] Brandon Ware: Nothing beats rock.

[00:05:34] Jess O’Reilly: I threw a rock. He threw a come on a scissor. So, Scissors is first. Don’t judge us.

[00:05:42] Brandon Ware: The Popsicle Fight by Brandon Ware. Okay, here we go. Jess asked Brandon to pick up Popsicles instructions about the pickup. The instructions included the cost of the Popsicles, the location, the number of Popsicles, and where to deliver them.

[00:05:56] Brandon Ware: I’m laughing at myself. You can laugh at me too. Send me a message. Brandon went to the [00:06:00] pickup location and when he arrived, the price that was quoted was different from what he thought. thought he understood from Jessica. Brandon admitted that although he heard Jessica’s quote about the price of the popsicles, he didn’t pay attention to the fact that this amount was an approximate amount based on a conversion rate that Jess had used on, uh, using the current exchange rate.

[00:06:18] Brandon Ware: When Brandon was quoted the amount, I don’t know why I have to emphasize certain words, to purchase the popsicles, the amount. Differed from what Jess had mentioned, and rather than taking the initiative and finding a solution, he called Jess to find out if this amount was correct, even though he knew it not to be correct.

[00:06:33] Jess O’Reilly: And this is where it takes a turn, folks.

[00:06:38] Brandon Ware: On the call, Jess… Proceeded to inform Brandon that this amount was incorrect and asked Brandon to solve the problem due to a lag in the call. This is where the real, the drama begins. Brandon and Jess continued to talk over each other, which contributed both of their frustration and the belief that both person was being rude and cutting the other person off while they were speaking.

[00:06:55] Brandon Ware: This continued until Brandon eventually made a statement that he was going to hang up the phone and he hung up the phone. Brandon and Jess then reconnected on the phone, uh, and explained that the delay was causing some of the confusion, uh, that Brandon’s behavior in response to hanging up the phone wasn’t effective or helpful in solving the problem or making Jess feel heard or valued.

[00:07:14] Brandon Ware: Brandon apologized and explained that he too didn’t feel heard but recognized. He was relying on Jess to find a solution to the problem rather than solving it on his own at that point in time. Then he ate a popsicle. Then he ate the extra ten popsicles. The booze popsicles.

[00:07:31] Jess O’Reilly: Okay, I’m sure that story makes no sense to people.

[00:07:35] Jess O’Reilly: Okay, should I add mine and there’ll be maybe a little more context? Okay, so I’m going to give a bit of background. We’re in Jamaica for my family reunion and we stay at this place called Skylark and they are fabulous. Really one of my favorite spots in the world. And I always try and get a treat for the staff.

[00:07:50] Jess O’Reilly: So here we go. Brandon went to pick up treats for the Skylark staff at Jess’s request. Jess had indicated that the cost would be 350 times [00:08:00] 60 treats equals 21, 000 Jamaican dollars or around 140 US dollars. And, that the owner of Chill Pops, shout out to them in Negril, and they’re opening a new location in Ochi, the owner was going to throw in 10 brata, which means extra.

[00:08:15] Brandon Ware: No, no, there was none. I ate them all

[00:08:17] Jess O’Reilly: 10. Okay, so don’t even worry about the numbers, but the language of 350 got confusing. So Brandon calls Jess from the shop to ask if the total should be 210 US dollars, even though she told him it should be 140 based on the exchange. So there ends up being a delay on the phones, it felt like we were, I guess I’m supposed to read it.

[00:08:36] Jess O’Reilly: So both parties felt that the other was interrupting, not listening, speaking over the other. Both perceived the other as being rude. Jess was annoyed because she felt she’d been clear about price and she was busy. Brandon was confused, and this may not make sense to people, but Brandon was confused because he thought 350 meant 350 US, when in fact each treat was 350 Jamaican dollars.

[00:08:58] Jess O’Reilly: So the 210 figure he He was quoted, made cents to him based on 350, but not Jamaican dollars, but not based on 3. 50 U. S. dollars. This is super confusing. Anyhow, it’s this coincidence with the money. But the reason he was quoted 210 was because the shop was giving a 1 to 100 exchange, which really didn’t make sense because the exchange is actually 1 to 150.

[00:09:21] Jess O’Reilly: So 1 U. S. dollar is around 150 Jamaican dollars. And many shops give you a decent exchange because they want the U. S. dollars. Anyhow, Jess got all riled up and angry that Brandon called to ask these follow up questions when she had already given him the instructions and she was busy coordinating a dinner for 60 at the family reunion that night.

[00:09:41] Jess O’Reilly: So Brandon was merely trying to ensure that he understood and he understandably called for clarification, but just didn’t get that at the time, and he was confused by the exchange rate. Anyhow, okay, I really feel like a moron, and I think we should stop this right now. We sound super cool. I know, we’re such losers.

[00:09:56] Jess O’Reilly: Anyhow, they were both inadvertently rude on the phone, apologized [00:10:00] after, and it, it kind of wrapped up pretty quickly. It was a kind of a bad comedy of errors, and I think this… Argument spanned and then cleaned up within, what would you say, like 10 minutes? Yeah, maybe it was like quick 10 to 15, and then everybody had popsicles.

[00:10:17] Jess O’Reilly: Yes. They did. I did. I had an Oreo or some sort of popsicle one. They weren’t even for me. They were for the staff. But oh my gosh, I’m, uh, I’m a little activated right now because I feel ridiculous. And I know that you and I, it’s funny, our brains think alike in that we provided all this additional context of like the exchange rate.

[00:10:33] Jess O’Reilly: But the real issue, I guess, was that we were interrupting each other on the phone because of the delay on WhatsApp. And it was kind of an easy conflict to resolve, so I don’t think it aligns with being like the worst conflict of the, of the four month period. No, but, but you know what? I can make it worse.

[00:10:51] Jess O’Reilly: We can go back. This one, this popsicle conflict is only leading up to the bigger conflict.

[00:10:55] Brandon Ware: But what’s nice about this experience and about this exercise is that, number one, we’re laughing about it now. Oh my god. So, yeah, and we know that it’s ridiculous. Being able to reflect back on it and write it out from a neutral perspective gave me more, um, you know, it, it helped me understand, and it also reminded me of the things that I wasn’t doing that I should be doing.

[00:11:15] Brandon Ware: Like it, it’s like, why did I need to call you on the spot and, and require that validation? It’s like, you know, and in the future, I’m like, problem solved, man, you do it all the time. Why did you refer back and, you know, make a decision, move forward?

[00:11:27] Jess O’Reilly: And I think that’s a trigger issue for me. Where I think that if I ask you to do something and I say something that I tend to take the lead on and there’s things in this relationship that I take the lead on and there’s things that you really take the lead on, but I always feel like there’s going to be so many follow up questions and I, I don’t know that that’s a reflection of you or this dynamic, but specifically of me because I feel that way with a lot of people.

[00:11:50] Jess O’Reilly: Like, and I don’t know if it’s because I take the lead on a lot of things. Like I wasn’t even going to the family reunion and somehow I’m on the planning committee.

[00:11:57] Brandon Ware: But I really did enjoy the, the activity, the [00:12:00] exercise, because it gave me an opportunity to reflect on the things that I feel like I can improve in, you know, in future arguments.

[00:12:06] Brandon Ware: And I’m not just trying to say that so that everything is perfect here, but in all seriousness, it’s like looking at it from a different perspective helped me understand things that I’m doing and I’m not doing. And also, you know, this and the comedy of errors that you make reference to, but I just, I thought it was a really good exercise after the dust had settled.

[00:12:24] Jess O’Reilly: Do you think that you’re harder on yourself though, like something I picked up from yours and I’m just, by the way, I’m, I’m hearing it for the first time. I didn’t, we didn’t. Talk about this beforehand, but hearing your version of the story from a neutral perspective, sounds like you might be a little bit more critical of yourself.

[00:12:39] Brandon Ware: I mean, I would agree with that. And I also think that looking at it, I think I should be more critical of my actions in this circumstance, in this situation, because I’m like, there was clear communication in advance. I was lazy on the spot and didn’t, you know, take the initiative to,

[00:12:55] Jess O’Reilly: no, it was confusing because Jamaican dollars as in 350 versus 3 and 50 cents.

[00:13:02] Jess O’Reilly: And then the fact that he was giving you that weird exchange, like, I think it was a bit of a comedy of errors.

[00:13:07] Brandon Ware: So agreed. But at the same time, again, just reflecting on it, I think it gave me a different perspective that I’m like, okay, yeah. Okay. You know, think on the spot, make a, make a decision, move forward.

[00:13:17] Jess O’Reilly: Well, we did it. Yeah, we did it. I’m embarrassed. I’m absolutely not listening to this back, but I thought I’d put it out there for folks just because they did see these significant differences between the control group and the intervention group, and they didn’t do the part where they read it to each other.

[00:13:34] Jess O’Reilly: But I think it’s worth giving it a try. So if you’re dealing with conflict, can you consider writing about the incident or the interaction from a neutral perspective, the perspective of somebody who wants the best for both parties? And if you have trouble with that, you can also look into what holds you back from being neutral because I’ve done this with people before and they will only blame their partner.

[00:13:56] Jess O’Reilly: still like Brandon called jazz and couldn’t do the math [00:14:00] and she was trying to get this dinner ready. But I, I found that it was kind of helpful for me to look at it from, from both sides. So if you find you’re being held back, think about what’s holding you back. And then I think the real takeaway for me is, okay, how can I be a little bit more neutral?

[00:14:15] Jess O’Reilly: How can I be this objective party who wants the best for both parties in the heat of the moment? And I think that’s something that over the years. We sort of have cultivated, I mean, you always said that, you know, we’re a team in this. We’re not trying to, you know, one of us isn’t trying to be right. I’m not saying I don’t get like that at times.

[00:14:30] Jess O’Reilly: Like obviously I love being right. It’s one of my favorite things. It’s one of yeah. After Popsicles. But yeah, think about, okay, so if I’m able to be neutral. post incident in my writing and this exercise, can I be a little bit more neutral in the heat of the moment? When we think about seven minutes, three times a year, 21 minutes a year for less distress, perhaps less conflict, happier relationships, it seems so Worth the effort.

[00:14:57] Jess O’Reilly: So I feel like we’ve pulled down our pants and exposed ourselves here.

[00:15:00] Brandon Ware: Wow. That was, uh, that was very descriptive. I was just going to say if HBO or Netflix or anybody wants the story rights to, you know, maybe the popsicle incident. Just give me, just give me a call. So embarrassed.

[00:15:13] Jess O’Reilly: And I think also I, maybe this was like an easier one because the issue really was.

[00:15:18] Jess O’Reilly: Outside of our control in a way, but it did help me to identify that. I don’t like when I asked somebody to do something and this kind of applies across the board and then they come back to me, even though I’ve been really clear. And again, I know that’s not the case in this situation, but I know that’s what triggered me when you called me.

[00:15:34] Brandon Ware: But that’s what I was going to say. Doing this exercise highlighted the fact that that’s something that I do that we’ve talked about before. So when I said it gives me a different perspective, it was, it was like looking in at a replay of the entire event. And it was like, yeah, man. Hey, Brandon. You are doing that thing.

[00:15:49] Brandon Ware: You might think that you’re not, but you are. And I’m not saying you weren’t wrong in that in certain elements of that whole…

[00:15:55] Jess O’Reilly: When I lost it on the phone. I mean, maybe [00:16:00] just a hint. I want strawberry popsicles. Bring me my Oreos and cookies and cream, clown. Okay, enough about popsicles. Anyhow, hope you give this a try.

[00:16:10] Jess O’Reilly: Writing from a neutral perspective, from a party who is both objective and wants the best for both of you. It’s going to take less than seven minutes. I would say mine took about three minutes, so totally worth the effort. And hey, if you’ve had ridiculous fights, hopefully you feel validated as well.

[00:16:25] Brandon Ware: Have some fun with it, right?

[00:16:26] Brandon Ware: Laugh about it if you can.

[00:16:27] Jess O’Reilly: Yes, yes. Uh, we’re still running our promo on happiercouples. com if you’re interested in any of our video courses on pleasure, on mindful sex, on premature ejaculation, and lasting longer, happiercouples. com. And the code to save is podcast. Nice and simple. Folks, I hope you’re eating a nice…

[00:16:46] Jess O’Reilly: It’s fresh, delicious popsicle, wherever you’re at, have a great one. You’re listening to the sex with Dr. Jess podcast. Improve your sex life, improve your life.