Central to the success of any couples therapy is the couple’s ability to function as a team. A large part of my work with couples involves guiding them to put their coupledom first. Out of habit, partners may put their own individual (or their partner’s) needs first. Sometimes that habit is driven by prevailing cultural norms that value individual needs; at other times it is driven by the partners’ respective attachment styles. Either way, I guide the couple to increase their understanding that the two of them are always on the same team—even when it doesn’t feel that way—and that their ability to engage in teamwork is a measure of their success.
Making decisions together is an important part of functioning as a team. If I discover that a couple is not making decisions together, I offer a process to help them better align. It can be summed up in five steps:
- The partners schedule a face-to-face meeting.
- They confirm they are on the same page regarding the decision to be made.
- The partners then take turns articulating their thoughts about what would constitute the best decision. Each partner listens while the other is speaking.
- The partners futurize all the possible scenarios for each course of action, and use these scenarios to narrow their decision-making options.
- The partners continue this process until they arrive at a decision together. This may require more than a single meeting.
I encourage couples to keep faith and not be discouraged if they are unable to reach a decision after multiple attempts; especially if the decision is an epic one, such as having a baby, making a career change, or contemplating a move. Just being in continued dialogue with each other and collaborating as equal decision-makers is a big win.
Catching up? Read Part 1 here.
Kara Hoppe, MA, MFT, is a psychotherapist, teacher, feminist, and mother. She has spent more than a decade as an inclusive therapist working with individuals and couples toward healing and growing; and toward becoming grounded, integrated people with better access to their own instincts, wisdom, and creativity. Hoppe currently lives in Pioneertown, CA; and sees clients in private practice via telehealth. You can learn more about her at www.karahoppe.com.