How to Resolve Big Disputes As a Couple

We hate to admit it, but marriage (or any long-term relationship) is no longer like an early romance, but more like a business partnership. As organizational psychologist Adam Grant and his wife Allison Sweet Grant explain in the Redbook, married life involves many compromises and negotiations . They offer four methods of negotiating to avoid unfortunate compromises.

Our favorite tactic is the last one: “Let everyone win something.” If you and your partner are discussing several important disagreements, instead of compromising on each one, turn them all into one big conversation. Thus, each of you can immediately “win” some of the differences.

For example, the Grants could not agree on whether to build a pool or what to name their child. But they found that each of them was more concerned with a separate argument. So they agreed:

Allison cared more about giving our son a prominent name than a house without pools, and Adam was more concerned about giving our son a place to swim than protecting him from childhood when he called us names.

While pool and title were important life decisions, they weren’t big decisions, and while Adam and Ellison were firm on both, they could each respect and trust the other’s opinion, enough to fully accept it. This mutual trust makes it much easier to sacrifice for each other.

Grants also include techniques such as the exchange of ultimatums or “anchoring” to change the terms of the discussion. Some of these methods may seem self-serving or manipulative, but they are better than a compromise that leaves no one happy. A lifelong partnership means sacrificing for one another, and managing those sacrifices is critical. Especially if you are planning to have a third partner.

How to Negotiate the Best Marriage | Red Book


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