Decision Making Frameworks / Hacks for Couples
January 1, 2020 6:28 PM   Subscribe

My partner and I have just learned the "two yeses or one no" rule to clarify our feelings about decisions. What are other decision making frameworks or hacks we can use as a couple to make better, easier and/or more clarifying joint (or non-joint) decisions? Neither of us are super decisive, so looking for ways to make communication easier.

For us the "two yeses or one no" rule has helped us to mark certain decisions as requiring two hell yeses to move forward (where to go for vacation) vs. other decisions where really only one of us is really needed to say "yes" (meal planning for the week). This has been helpful to give us a way of expressing our preferences more explicitly.

Other hacks that have helped are voting with "delegates" -- i.e., we each have 10 and we can use them to assign how much we want to do something, like 8 of my delegates want to go the Indian restaurant, and 4 of his delegates want to go and 6 of his delegates just don't care.

Another one we've used is to narrow down choices, e.g., I pick 5 options, then he picks 3, and then I pick the last.

I would love other decision making frameworks specifically for couples (vs. just a single person) that help in improving our dialogue about what we want / value and making decisions in a much more faster but yet meaningful way.
posted by ellerhodes to Human Relations (10 answers total) 68 users marked this as a favorite
You may have seen this already, but there's an old ask mefi question about general relationship hacks, which includes some decision making ones:

What clever relationship hacks have you come up with

For example, this comment from that thread, although it sounds like it's not too different from your delegates method.
posted by litera scripta manet at 7:14 PM on January 1, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: We (both my spouse and I and larger groups) have a rule that when selecting where to go for dinner you can't veto the current choice without suggesting a new option. It works for lots of minor decisions where there are a plethora of options all approximately equal in value (what movie to see, what hike to do, what game to play, etc.)
posted by Mitheral at 7:45 PM on January 1, 2020 [6 favorites]

Honestly, I have had great success with using Rock Paper Scissors for less-consequential decision-making.
posted by sixswitch at 7:49 PM on January 1, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: From my wife, I learned the Iron Fist of Certainty, where you boldly declare what you'd like to do, instead of waffling about. This doesn't mean that you're fixed on that idea, but you start somewhere other than "I don't know, what do you want to do?" which is what I used to do.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:25 PM on January 1, 2020 [9 favorites]

This is a weird one, but we document big decisions by writing intra-family memoranda laying out the decision, the options, the considerations, and the choice. We find that the process of drafting the memo often clarifies the discussion, and the finished document is a useful reference later on.

A problem we haven't solved, and which I think many frameworks like delegates don't consider: people don't have a fixed amount of caring that they portion out among the questions before them, s.t. over a sufficiently wide range of questions any pair will come out about even in how often they get their way. Some people just care about everything a lot. Systems like delegates will tend to give them their way until their significant others realize that it's been years since they've had a meal they actually enjoyed (as opposed to merely being willing to eat). This is not sustainable in the long term.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 8:59 PM on January 1, 2020 [11 favorites]

I would like to echo meaty shoe puppet’s observation. In my marriage I cared deeply about way too many things. Meanwhile, my partner hated conflict. I did not know for years that he had felt steamrolled about a lot of decisions, and I felt blindsided by his resentment because in many cases he literally had not spoken up because he had decided it was pointless because I was always going to get my way. In my next relationship I plan to use the 100% approach, that is linked to above. Because I think all parties feel better about the process if they get to express what they would choose in their ideal world, whatever happens afterward.
posted by Bella Donna at 2:24 AM on January 2, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Would you modify a coin toss? Sometimes no one has an opinion on a choice among alternatives, or no one expresses their opinion until it doesn't go their way. For times when we are indecisive, rather than trying to explore whatever latent preferences there might be, one of us will ask the coin toss question. Have you ever expressed no opinion and then regretted it? That's what the coin toss question is for.
posted by sillyman at 5:09 AM on January 2, 2020

Best answer: We do really well with one person choosing a universe and the other person choosing a planet within that universe. Or more concretely, for dinner ordering, one of us will choose a category or a continent (eg, "something spicy", or "europe") and the other person will choose within that category ("korean", or "italian"). For watching a movie or a show, we do really well with one person choosing three possibilities and the other person choosing from those three. That method also works with food. And with anything.

This works well for us because my husband usually knows what he wants in a general sense and I almost never do, but once I hear some options, I know what I like and what I hate.
posted by millipede at 7:19 AM on January 2, 2020 [4 favorites]

My roommate and I have a loose alternation for low stakes choices like meals and entertainment, all we have to do is figure out who took the initiative last time. In the case of dinner, the person who decides what to eat will cook or order the food.

We usually check with the other person like 'you ok with X?' or 'would you prefer Y or Z'. If the non-initiator has some specific request they can say so, like "I had Mexican for lunch, can we avoid that?" but the understanding is that the initiator has the power.

The initiator can abdicate by either switching turns or opting out. If you switch turns then you have to do two in a row so we both avoid that, but it's a good option when one of has made too many choices that day and just cannot make one more. Opt out means we each eat on or own/entertain ourselves in different rooms, and does not count as anyone's turn. Commonly used when there's just one serving of some leftover, or one of us craves food that the other does not like/can't eat, or she wants to watch scary movies.
posted by buildmyworld at 9:47 AM on January 2, 2020

Our approach to "where to go out to dinner" is similar to millipede's but more concrete. One person picks 2 or 3 options that they would be OK with but that they can't decide between, and the second person makes the final choice. I find that both sides of this approach -- picking a couple options in a noncommittal way and choosing from a short list -- are easier than making an unrestricted choice, and we're both happy with the result.
posted by jomato at 1:18 PM on January 2, 2020

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