Sunday, January 29, 2012

An Alternative to Couples Counseling: "The Ten-Minute Miracle"

This deceptively simple strategy is from my new book, How to Do Life: What they didn't teach you in school.

Your relationship is doing poorly. Before heading to couples counseling, you might try what I call The Couple's Council.

It has helped a number of my clients, and frankly, my own marriage. One of my clients called it "The Ten-Minute Miracle."

Step 1: Perhaps over dinner, you propose one specific thing you'll do during the next 24 hours to improve the relationship; for example, your partner is tired of your procrastination, nagging, or being a pig. So you propose that you will not nag him about anything for a week. Your partner agrees that would at least modestly improve your relationship, or s/he asks you to propose something else. You keep proposing changes in your behavior until s/he okays one.

Step 2: You reverse roles. In other words, this step is completed when you agree that something your partner proposes to do would at least modestly improve your relationship.

Step 3: During the next 24 hours, when each of you sees your partner doing the desired behavior, for example, getting something done when s/he'd otherwise likely procrastinate, the person gets a thumbs-up. Each screw-up gets a thumbs-down but no lecture, no recriminations.

Step 4: 24 hours later, each of your rates him/herself on how well s/he did in improving on the agreed-on behavior., Then, you decide whether, in the next 24 hours, you want to just work on the same behavior or add another one.

Repeat the process until enough improvements have been made, or you decide you should see that couples counselor after all.


Anonymous said...

How would you apply this to business relationships that have soured? I had a valuable business alliance go south through a misunderstanding, but I've been unable to mend things because I cannot get an audience with her or any representative from her company. It's not about rebuilding the partnership we once had -- I moved on from that quite some time ago. But I like to be at peace with everyone. Especially painful is the negative false impression about me she still has because she is someone who had my respect and I had hoped to always have hers. I'm hoping you'll have better advice for me than "give up," which is the advice I get from lesser minds. Somehow you are able to come up with new solutions to the world's most unsolvable problems. FWIW, I've had people who know us both say, "You're both equally full of shit."

Marty Nemko said...

I don't have anything brilliant to offer other than, if you don't want to give up, if enough time has passed for much of the negative emotions between you has dissipated, to invite her out to lunch, dinner, or a drink.


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