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“It felt like it was easy for the marriage to center around tasks as opposed to connection and fun activities,” Grant, the professor of psychology at Wharton School of Business at University of Pennsylvania, told TODAY. “Allison would have all of these things she wanted me to do and there were all these things I wanted her to do.”
It didn't seem like to-do lists were the best way to bond, so Grant and Allison decided to try out some creative ideas from psychology. It worked.
Here, Grant shared with TODAY what he and Allison have learned to keep their marriage happy.
1. Have a marriage meeting.
Every good manager meets with their staff every week. We knew that this was important to manage a work relationship, so why wouldn’t we do this at home with a more important relationship?
At some point we said let’s find a regular time where we can go through all this stuff. Sometimes, the meetings are five or 10 minutes. Sometimes we have more to go through and they last longer. We provide updates on what needs to be done and give each other feedback.
When we talked about these tasks one off, I would lose sight of that it was important to her. Yet, when we sit down for a weekly meeting and she goes through a list of things to do, it makes them more important to me.
The first time we did one of these meetings that week was much more fun. We both felt like we were nagging each other less, but also getting the stuff done that needs to be done.
2. Ask questions instead of trying to change your partner.
There are all these things you are trying to persuade your partner to do that you think is good for them. I am late to everything all the time, like chronically late, and everyone who knows me expects me to be about 10 minutes late.
At first, Allison tried to explain why it bothers her when I’m late.
We go through all this back and forth and I have already justified my behavior and she thinks it is an excuse.
Each person thinks, "I am right."
She would just start to ask me "Are you going to be late today?"
I started to feel these pangs of guilt. I know it’s important to her to be on time. I don’t feel like she is trying to persuade me. She is asking me a simple question and … I am really motivated to say, "No, today I am not going to be late."
Think about the behavior you want them to do and ask the question, "Do you plan to? Are you going to?"
If you set up the question well, you are going to get more of the answer you are hoping to hear.
3. Have a conversation about the conversation.
Everyone knows that one of the critical ways to improve your marriage is to be a better listener.
Allison and I missed opportunities to be better listeners in all those conversations about me being on time because we didn't clarify the goals.
You can help your partner to be a better listener and one of the ways to do that is to have a conversation about the conversation. If we really understood each other’s perspective then we should be able to get on the same page.
The answers have been condensed and edited for clarity.