In her recent New York Times article, “The Decisive Marriage”, Tara Parker-Pope illustrates that couples who thoughtfully make more decisions together experience greater marital satisfaction.

This certainly is an important ingredient in building a sturdy and successful relationship.  After all, if we look at any business partnership,  making thoughtful decisions is key to its success.  So why should this not always extend to marital relationships?

It is not unusual for couples to quickly enter the “honeymoon phase” of their relationship and be reluctant to address certain issues since they might have to come down from the clouds and be pushed from that blissful state too precipitously.  But if decisions about their relationship are not adequately addressed, eventually they will be made either by default or by one of the partners.    This might work for a while but may cause some resentment for one or both parties as they move further into their relationship.

I sometimes hear my patients say: “Nothing ever gets resolved.”  The reason for that is that couples tend to put more effort into doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results.  If something does not feel right for one of the partners then something is not right for the relationship and that should be addressed.

But what stops couples from talking about something they feel the other may not want to hear?  There is a sense that if something is brought to the attention of the other, they may “stir the pot” and make matters worse.  The truth is that the pot needs to be stirred so that both partners have the opportunity to talk about what is important to them in their relationship at any given point in time.

Patterns in relationships are formed very early and if something that feels “off” by one of the partners is not discussed, it will only develop more steam down the road.   Today, I am seeing more and more couples for premarital counseling.   In the first session, it is not uncommon for me to hear :  “We don’t have any serious issues but we want to tweak a few things so we start off on the right foot and don’t run into difficulties later on.”

Most couples desire a relationship that is intimate on a number of levels.  They want to not only be able to talk to their partner about their hopes and dreams and how to get there but want the input of the other and to feel that he/she is truly committed and involved.

Since communication is key, couples may need to learn the emotional language of each other so that a new template is developed to facilitate an effective conversation.  This will facilitate a discussion about future plans and decisions even though they may at first be on different pages.

What they often find, is that they gain additional insight about the blueprint that each one has used in the past and how outdated it can be for their relationship.  This discovery enables them to improve their relationship patterns early on while creating a stronger bond so that they can talk about their concerns and develop a plan to obtain what they both want for the future.

Author: Susan Whedbee
Susan Whedbee is a psychoanalyst with a private practice in NYC.