We evaluate the success of projects at work by sitting down and looking at what worked and what didn’t. Can the same approach work for relationships?
Some experts think it can. It’s called a “marriage audit” and it can help couples to work through their differences themselves without having to go to a marriage counsellor.
Nobody goes into a marriage expecting that it’s going to end in disaster. But along the way, for some couples, problems can crop up where they least expect them.
They could be issues around finances, parenting styles, life goals, meddling inlaws… just about anything, really. Some of these issues can fester away over time if left unchecked, and might see you headed to splitsville. Or at the very least, you’ll be living together miserably without resolution.
A marriage audit works by taking stock of arguments and disagreements to pinpoint the trouble spots in your marriage.
When we think of auditing, we usually think of how an independent outsider will come in to an organisation and look at the accounts, books, documents and finances to ensure that they comply with all the relevant requirements. Knowing that an audit can take place is usually a motivating factor for those responsible for the accounts to make sure they are properly maintained.
The same sort of process can be a great tool to use in a marriage, provided both partners are willing to use it.
The idea is that if you aren’t tracking how you are doing and taking note of what is working and what’s not, and not putting agreements in place about what is working and what isn’t, you can find yourself oblivious to problems and surprised when the other partner tells you they want a divorce.
It doesn’t have to be a lengthy process, It’s recommended you schedule just seven minutes with your spouse every three months – that’s much less painful than a performance review in most workplaces!
The process was developed by American psychology professor, Eli J Frinkel, who carried out research by issuing 120 couples with questionnaires about their relationship satisfaction, trust, love, intimacy, passion and commitment every four months over a period of two years.
In the process, a person was asked to write down their personal account of the biggest argument they had with their other half in the previous four months.
Half of the couples were asked to complete a “reappraisal” where they were asked to assess the argument from the point of view of an imaginary neutral observer.
Both of the groups experienced a decline in marital quality in the first year of the trial. But for those who completed the “reappraisals”, this was completely reversed during the second year.
While couples in both groups still experienced the same frequency of arguments over serious issues, the couples who analysed their fights from a neutral perspective were less distressed. As a result, they reported that they felt happier in their marriages.
The results were the same regardless of whether the couples were newlyweds, or had been hitched for 50 years.
Would you try a marriage audit to keep your relationship healthy?