Performance Reviews for Married Couples

Source: QZ, Oct 2015

Increasingly, marriage counselors are recommending that couples conduct regular performance reviews with each other, according to the Wall Street Journal. Therapists say the reviews are a constructive way to revisit relationship goals, confront obstacles, and prevent small problems from ballooning to insurmountable ones.

… the short, practical, list she offers up (pdf). And I like the intentionality.

Dr. Cordova and his colleagues asked 216 married couples about the biggest strengths and weaknesses in their relationship. Half the couples then saw a therapist for two sessions to discuss their assessments and tackle the issues that arose. The other half did not. Here is what they found:


The researchers, who followed up with the couples after one and two years, found those who had performed the checkup saw significant improvements in their relationship satisfaction, intimacy and feelings of acceptance by their partner, as well as a decrease in depressive symptoms, compared with the couples in the control group who didn’t perform a checkup. In addition, the couples who had the most problems in their marriage before the checkup saw the most improvement.

There are rules to how you do a performance assessment:
  • couples must address behavior, not character (this is not a free-for-all bitch session);
  • explain yourself,
  • empathize,
  • be consistent and
  • identify what you want to change.

Designed properly, a review neutralizes the emotions of day-to-day fights (who didn’t take out the trash) in an attempt to frame goals (let’s share the housework), recognize issues (we are not sharing the chores) and implement solutions (let’s get the kids to do it!).

John Gottman, the genius marriage guru, says couples need to minimize “regrettable incidents” or the things you say about her mother that can never be taken back.


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