Life Style

Place of life, marriage, children… How decisions are made in the couple

Who says couple decision immediately thinks in large format, with the most engaging questions: living together? To marry ? Have a child? Change region? Essential choices but which only embrace a small part of the vast field of arbitrations on which a couple’s life is built. On a day-to-day basis, you have to decide on the dinner menu, the film to see on television or in the cinema, the invitations sent to friends and family, the choice of a nanny, the school orientation of the children, the color curtains, the purchase of a car, the creation of a vegetable garden and so many other subjects which will not necessarily all arouse a dialogue.

That’s the problem!reacts Emmanuel Ballet de Coquereaumont, psychotherapist, co-author with Marie-France Ballet de I stop being bad in my relationship!21 days to save love (Eyrolles, 2016). A romantic vision of the couple leads one to think that not needing to consult each other is love. Decisions and roles are implicitly fixed in an initial contract which often does not last because everyone will consider that their opinion could be taken into account. »

“A touch of annoyance to see him encroaching on my square meadow”

This is what Nathalie, accountant, 47, testifies: “Philippe, my husband, who ironically called me the ‘family banker’, is beginning to put his two cents into matters such as opening an account, which a little while ago caused him deep boredom. . I’m delighted, not without a hint of annoyance to see it encroach on my square yard, “ she acknowledges.

Let one decide on the decoration, the other on the weekend outing, why not? But on condition of talking about it, believes Marie José de Aguiar, Gestalt therapist (1): “Automatisms are taking hold in everyday life. But it is necessary to know where the other is in order to possibly question what is established. »

This implicit distribution of choices is generally based on interests. It is possible to delegate decisions to the other, which does not mean unloading on himnotes Bernard Prieur, therapist and author of Family, money and love. The psychological stakes of material questions (Albin Michel, 2016). To avoid this flaw, it is important to recognize one’s competence and one’s own needs.. »

In these daily choices come into play our history and what Bernard Prieur calls the ” world’s map “ : “Acquired in our family of origin, it shapes our values ​​and our opinions, following it to the letter or taking its opposite. Coming from a different background, culture or religion enriches the union but complicates it. » A hedonist from a family where pleasure counts above all else and a frugal from a peasant stock where the unconscious of an uncertain future remains will have more difficulty agreeing on the place to be given to leisure and various purchases.

Equity rather than equality

Ideally, decisions are taken by two people in a “co-construction”, like the one shown by François, 62 years old: “For the holidays, my partner and I had a common desire: not to fly for ecological reasons. She wanted Spain but I feared the heat; I wanted Austria where I let her choose our stages which she decided on by the lakes because she loves to swim. »

The balance between the two members of the couple is often forged over time. More than equality, it is equity that mattersbelieves Bernard Prieur. It is established over time from unequal sequences.» Be careful, however, not to create ” debt “warns Emmanuel Ballet de Coquereaumont: “If decision-making is a struggle and one has ‘won’ this time, one will have to lose the next time, which can be unbearable on essential subjects. »

Disputes have the reputation of being particularly thorny when they relate to the education of children, which is closely linked to our values. The psychotherapist also advises to listen to those concerned. “The responsibility lies with adults, but all decision-making concerning the child should include them. He does not need to be proven right, but for his opinion to be taken into account. »

Some disagreements seem insurmountable: one wants a child, the other doesn’t; one dreams of a wedding, the other is afraid of feeling locked up in it… Couples create a frozen balance by opposing each otherbelieves Emmanuel Ballet de Coquereaumont. How do you prepare to have a child if you are told to want one right away? You have to allow yourself time to evolve, to invent, to imagine highly creative decisions that lead to unique relationships. » The balance of power can exist even in dialogue, when the fear of “getting tricked” arises and when the purpose of the exchanges is to gain control over the other. “Power issues with manipulation, even blackmail, complicate decision-making by trying to establish who is right or wrong”, notes Marie José de Aguiar.

Agree to give up

A logic that reassures everyone, convinced of being in the right, but prevents the flexibility essential to joint decisions. To decide has for etymology the Latin words meaning “to slice” and “to cut”. “It involves agreeing to give up, says the therapist. If what we will receive is at least as important as what we lose, this choice is fair. In any case, dialogue requires self-esteem in order to assert oneself in decisions. »

Taking it doesn’t always involve tension. Sometimes one doesn’t say a word, like Matthieu, 34: “When we moved, my partner, who wanted a Haussmann apartment, finally set her sights on a cozy and charming apartment with its nooks on the third floor. floor of a building without an elevator. I let her. » A position “neither responsible nor guilty” which raises the question of investment in the couple and can turn around on the one who has been silent. If being the “leader” leaves a lot of freedom, this position can also give a heavy feeling of loneliness.


Books to improve communication within the couple

Be truly yourself, fully love the other!Non-violent communication between couples and friendsby Marshall B. Rosenberg, Éditions Jouvence, 2011, 152 p., €8.10.

Non-violent communication (NVC) is a great tool for better communication in the couple, expressing one’s feelings to the other and telling them of their needs, while welcoming their loved ones with kindness. Creator of the CNV, Marshall B. Rosenberg deciphers it to thwart incommunicability, the unspoken and aggressiveness, so many obstacles to joint decision-making.

More love, less conflict. Playful communication manual for couples, by Jonathan Robinson, Amethyste editions, 2019, 230 p., €18.

This book offers simple practices and methods for listening to each other, understanding and anticipating friction, in particular for making decisions together that suit both members of the couple.


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