Want to improve your relationship? Think about your ex, says study

Thinking about your ex could be the last thing on your mind – but it could have a positive effect on your new relationship (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

It may sound like hell on earth, but according to a new study the best way to improve your relationship is to think about your ex.

Yes, really. Specifically, you should focus on the good times you shared with your former partner (although, you might need to dig deep to find these).

Psychologists at the University of Kansas asked volunteers to reflect on nostalgic memories with an ex and then report how it made them feel about their current relationship.

The good news? All that thinking about their exes actually had a positive effect – with many of the participants reporting that it helped them think more positively about their current relationship, as it made them aware of how much they had grown since their previous one.

The researchers from the study, which was published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, found that: ‘Fond nostalgic memories about past relationships remind people of the positivity of romantic relationships.

‘We found it led to an increase in the perceived quality of current partnerships.

‘These memories can be triggered by an ex-lover’s favourite song or movie.

‘But if the break-up of the previous relationship was too painful, people may resist recalling nostalgic memories.’

The researchers asked 167 individuals to take part in three experiments exploring the positive effects of reflecting on previous relationships.

Each of the experiments made participants reflect on happy memories with an ex, by reading blog posts from strangers fondly looking back at past relationships.

The volunteers were then asked questions about their relationship satisfaction and love for their current partner – and those who could reminisce about good times with an ex reported an increase in satisfaction in their current relationship.

The researchers concluded: ‘We found that perception of self-growth mediated the positive effects of reflecting on nostalgic memories about an ex-partner on perceived current relationship quality and approach motivation in the current relationship.’

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