Objective: Within the United States, one third of married couples are distressed and almost half of first marriages (and more than half of unmarried cohabiting relationships) end in divorce/separation. Additionally, relationship distress has been linked to mental and physical health problems in partners and their children. Although couple therapy is effective in reducing relationship distress, it is utilized by less than one third of divorcing couples. Therefore, more accessible interventions for relationship distress are needed.
Method: This study tests the efficacy of the OurRelationship program, an 8-hr online program adapted from an empirically based, in-person couple therapy. In the program, couples complete online activities and have 4 15-min calls with project staff. Nationwide, 300 heterosexual couples (N = 600 participants) participated; couples were generally representative of the US in terms of race, ethnicity, and education. Couples were randomly assigned to begin the program immediately or to a 2-month waitlist control group.
Results: Compared to the waitlist group, intervention couples reported significant improvements in relationship satisfaction (Cohen's d = 0.69), relationship confidence (d = 0.47), and negative relationship quality (d = 0.57). Additionally, couples reported significant improvements in multiple domains of individual functioning, especially when individuals began the program with difficulties in that domain: depressive (d = 0.71) and anxious symptoms (d = 0.94), perceived health (d = 0.51), work functioning (d = 0.57), and quality of life (d = 0.44).
Conclusions: In a nationally representative sample of couples, the OurRelationship program was effective in significantly improving both relationship and individual functioning, suggesting it can substantially increase the reach of current interventions through its low-cost, Web-based format.
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