Can you think of an unresolved conflict in your marriage right now? It may be a big one or a small one … if so, you are suffering from the “Ziegarnik Effect.”
I hope you’re struggling to unearth one … but research tells me that many of us have a few open issues that keep rolling around in our hearts and heads. Unfortunately, my experience as a marriage coach has introduced me to couples who are experiencing this very negative phenomenon called the “Ziegarnik Effect”.
The Ziegarnik Effect, in simple terms, is the tendency we have to remember the uncompleted, or interrupted, tasks more than we do those that have been completed or resolved. When we put that in the context of marriage we would say … that we tend to remember all of the unresolved conflicts, or issues, in our marriages more than we do the ones we’ve resolved and put behind us.
When a couple’s negative dealings are not properly resolved, they are constantly being remembered and rehearsed by each spouse from his or her point of view. Trust begins to erode … and their marriage becomes a breeding ground for negative feelings and withdrawal. Soon each spouse begins to view one another with a critical eye. They become suspicious and begin to mistrust each other; and if left unchecked they will find themselves believing that their spouse is the enemy!
Hopefully you can see that unprocessed negative events, or unresolved conflicts, between you and your spouse are extremely destructive because they erode trust. And if left unresolved, these issues will ultimately create a powerful death spiral that can ultimately destroy your most intimate relationship.
That’s why Paul admonishes us in Ephesians 4:26: “do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” God knows that we humans have a strong tendency towards rehearsing the unresolved negatives in our hearts and heads over and over again. (He knew all about the Ziegarnik Effect before it was “discovered” in 1922!)
So, if an unresolved conflict popped up in your heart and head … make it a point to get it resolved as soon as possible. You do not want to give the devil an opportunity to divide you as husband and wife and to destroy your marriage!