1. You must hold weekly meetings. Just as in any business environment, you must schedule a weekly “partners” meeting at a definite time when you will have the chance to discuss issues. Too often, we avoid serious issues with our spouses, claiming we’re too busy with life, as if there exists a more important life outside of building our most significant relationship. Couples often argue and resent each other because they don’t discuss issues properly, or resolve them. This meeting confirms that your relationship is too important to take a back seat to the mundane details of life. It sets aside real time so you can face each other and discuss the issues that are important to each of you. It is at this meeting that each of you will report on the “state of the union” and raise any decision you’ve made or are considering, that you think your spouse may be interested in.
The point of clarifying roles is never to reduce discussion but to reduce the tension of differences in everyday life decisions. However, reserving the more emotional issues for a designated time stops you from bringing them up at moments when your partner isn’t in a frame of mind to deal with them in a loving, understanding way. A scheduled meeting sets the stage for each spouse to listen carefully and focus on the important issues.
The weekly “state of the union” meeting also allows open discussion on upcoming items that may require you to adjust your roles. Most of all, it confirms the concept of making a set time to work together on your marital union.
2. You must make major decisions jointly. As explained earlier, you need to claim appropriate roles to avoid splitting your energy in too many different directions. But this division isn’t intended to give either spouse unilateral power in making major decisions. A “major” decision is anything you know your spouse will feel strongly about. Many people may say, “How am I to know what he/she feels strongly about?” Or “He/she feels strongly about everything!” As much as I’ve heard couples claim to be oblivious as to what their spouse desires or what is important to their spouse, I’ve learned that most couples know exactly what their spouse wants. Generally, you know what decisions your spouse wants to be included in. If you are unsure, you must talk to your mate before making a decision. As time goes on you will learn what your spouse considers “major.”
RABBI NEUMAN is a Florida licensed psychotherapist and author of two books, Helping Your Kids Cope With Divorce the Sandcastles Way (Random House) and Emotional Infidelity, How to Affair-proof Your Marriage and Other Secrets to a Great Relationship (Crown). He and his work have been featured many times on The Oprah Show, Today, The View and in People, Time and elsewhere. He lives with his wife and five children in Miami Beach, Florida. For more information on his work, visit www.mgaryneuman.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.