One of the challenges that most married couples have is making decisions together. To help understand what are common mistakes married couples make when trying to make a decision together and for tips on mutual decision-making, I have interviewed psychotherapist Karen S. Waugh , LISW-S, LICDC.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I have a Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at The Ohio State University, College of social work. I am a Licensed Independent Social Worker and Licensed Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor, specializing in working with adult individuals and couples.”
What are common mistakes married couples make when trying to make a decision together?
“The most common mistakes that couples make when attempting to come to agreement on decisions, is:
Not being completely honest about what they want.
Not allowing for complete honesty from their partner.
Not respecting (and celebrating) differences once honesty is communicated.”
What type of impact do those mistakes have on the marriage?
“Each relationship is unique with a unique dynamic. Therefore, the impact that communication and decision making mistakes have on the marriage will be as different and unique as the dynamic. Generally speaking however, couples will often over time come to resent their partners when, in truth, the responsibility lies with themselves. If we are unwilling to assume responsibility for ourselves and our ability to communicate our needs and wants, then we cannot expect that our partners will always make decisions that we prefer or are in our best interest. Sometimes we forget that although we are a part of a unit, we are still individuals within that unit with unique thoughts, feelings, opinions, and ideas. We must honor our uniqueness with every joint decision that we make. Marital problems typically occur because smaller, less significant concerns have not been addressed. My motto is to ‘Kill the monster while it’s small.’ In other words, address and resolve each communication issue when and as it occurs. Don’t allow minor disagreements to grow and build upon itself.”
What are some tips for married couples on mutual decision-making?
“Avoid ego fighting! That is, communicate about possibilities and avoid value judgments: good, bad, right or wrong.
Avoid positioning! Practice flexibility and inclusion — attachment to ideas limits your growth and the progression of the relationship.
Take a risk. Share your innermost feelings and thoughts about whatever you are trying to decide upon. Resist the urge to allow your partner to take sole responsibility for making decisions — this will only lead to resentment and prohibit the growth and experience of the intimacy that occurs when two people share their perspectives from a mutually trusting and honest place. Further, resist the urge to please your partner by allowing him or her to enjoy assuming the role of decision maker. This only gives away power that your partner will come to resent. This differentiation in power will lead to communication difficulties in the future.
Express your thoughts and feelings and encourage your partner to express his/her honest thoughts and feelings. Respect and celebrate your difference of opinions, then consider and work together to incorporate both opinions into the decision.”
What type of professional help is available for married couples that have a difficult time with mutual decision making?
“Finding information on specific topics, off- and on-line courses, and professional counselors/ therapists with specific skills and in specific locations, is easier now than ever before. The only excuse for not educating yourself or obtaining the help that you need rests with the individual and their willingness or desire to move beyond their current circumstance. My suggestion to couples is to learn to seek help before communication difficulties escalate into a larger, more complex, problem. Most therapists are skilled at providing mediation and communication facilitation. Another option is to download information or enroll in a course on assertive communication, where you will learn to communicate appropriately and respectfully, while asking for what you want and need.”
Thank you Karen for doing the interview on tips for married couples on mutual decision-making. For more information on Karen S. Waugh or her work you can check out her website on www.waughcounseling.com .
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