Marriage can be hard, but couples therapists have tips to make it easier.
Peter Pearson, PhD, and Ellyn Bader, PhD, run The Couples Institute in California. They’ve been married to each other for decades.
I spoke to Pearson and Bader and learned some of the best strategies they use, both in their practice and in their own relationship.
Those strategies include: choose your decision-making strategy, know the “why,” and listen with curiosity.
This is the first installment of Relationships 101, a series which aims to help us all be happier and healthier in love — and to stop fighting over who should take out the trash.
Last November, I got married.
In the months leading up to the wedding, I was mostly consumed with floral arrangements, and invitation fonts, and shoes that wouldn’t cause me to trip while walking down the aisle. Now that those details are behind me (whew!), I’m on a new quest: Searching for the best marriage advice I can find.
To that end, I recently interviewed a series of relationship experts who are married… to each other. I asked them about the strategies they not only preach, but also practice behind closed doors.
Two of my most fascinating interviewees were Peter Pearson, PhD and Ellyn Bader, PhD, who run the Couples Institute in Menlo Park, California, and work with many entrepreneur couples in Silicon Valley. Pearson and Bader have seen it all, and they’ve come up with creative strategies to help resolve conflict, both in their clients’ marriages and in their own.
Three insights from the interview stood out to me:
1. Before you do any big project, decide which of 3 decision-making strategies you’ll use
Bader shared a technique she and Pearson teach many of the couples they see: Decide in advance of a big undertaking (like a home renovation) which of three decision-making strategies you’re going to use.
Unilateral means one partner gets to make the decision and the partners don’t have to agree. Equilateral means each partner has an equal say, and they’re “willing to hash it out and stay with it until they both agree.”
51/49% is the most interesting, and often the most effective, Bader said. The partner with 51% of the say gets to make the final decision, but the partner with 49% trusts that the 51% partner will take into account what they want.
In the example of home renovations — which, by the way, can be a huge …
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