Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Marriage--An Executive Committee Of Two

Herald Press
Marriage is a covenant, not just a business contract between Jane and John Doe, Inc., but it does involve a lot of day to day issues involving finances, household responsibilities, parenting and multitude of other matters requiring business-like attention.

How couple decisions are made can make a big difference in our marital success. Does each try to prevail through adversarial and heated arguments, or can two people work arrive at win-win agreements by consensus, as a creative committee of two?

Two heads are, after all, better than one, and a well-run committee elicits as many ideas as possible from each of its members, regardless of who chairs the group.

Here is a proposed approach a couple might use to solve problems and reach agreements, from my book Lasting Marriage--The Owners' Manual":

For Regular Couple’s Meetings

1. Share compliments and appreciations.

2. Review any unfinished business from past meeting(s).

3. Review calendar and do necessary scheduling (including planning a date or dates for the two of you!)

4. Discuss any financial issues, take care of paying bills, etc.

5. Agree on an agenda, then take one item or problem at a time, as follows:

    a. First discuss the issue in terms of each of your underlying interests (why this is so important), rather than first stating your positions (this is what you/we should do).

    b. Throughout, always take turns being the speaker and the listener.  When you are the listener, make sure you fully understand the other to their satisfaction before you take your turn to speak.

    c. Take time to brainstorm ideas for possible solutions, generating as many new options as possible (no evaluating or critiquing during this part of the process).

    d. After discussing some of the more agreeable options you have put on the table, decide by consensus or delay a decision if it’s not possible to come up with a win-win solution or just agree on an interim solution (or decide to see a mediator or counselor for help). Remember, no agreement needs to be set in stone for all time, but will be honored until it is reviewed and changed.

    e. Decide how and by whom a decision is to be carried out, and what will happen if it isn’t.  Put both the agreement and a friendly, agreed on “consequence-for-not-following-through” in writing.

6. Decide on a time for your next couple’s meeting, and who will be responsible for making sure the session happens (of course, either can respectfully ask for a special meeting at any time).

7. Keep it under an hour, and end with some activity you both enjoy.
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