There is a decalogue of the happy couple that is used in some circles. The following exercise is an adaptation of others I have seen in different places. Over time I have discovered that it is a good instrument to evaluate aspects of the couple’s relationship.
How is it done?
First of all, I usually do it with both members of the couple present, and I explain to them that it is a team effort. I like to say this because it also allows me to observe how they behave when they know they have to work as a team . It is interesting and gives a lot of play. Everyone has to have a piece of paper and a pen to write on.
Let me make it clear to you that it’s about finding the 10 things that make a couple happy. It is clear that we have to stick to one number, and that is why there are 10. But it can be said that these 10 include all those aspects that studies show that couples value in their relationship and make them happier in the relationship and in their everyday life.
Obviously, some find it more difficult and others less, and there are some aspects that most find difficult to realize, or even contemplate as part of the happiness of the couple. It’s interesting for this, too. In general, they tend to agree with the criteria and recognize the value of these aspects.
This would be the first part, and the second part involves individual work.
Before explaining the second part, I present the list of the Decalogue.
The Ten Points of the Decalogue
In my consulting room I have every aspect written on a card, and as soon as the patients reach that aspect, they describe it in one way or another, and I discard that card… We may talk about it a lot, and we keep looking for other aspects… And so, until we reach the ten points of the exercise. Sometimes I have to help them a lot, and other times just, or not at all. I usually give positive reinforcement for them step by step.
Sometimes, to make the exercise easier, I give them one or two aspects to open their mouths, so that the exercise does not take so long.
The ones I give as examples are usually:
- Respect .
Then, I might tell you, “We only have eight left, which ones can you think of?” And we continue with the list of the Decalogue…
- Sharing hobbies .
- Sincerity / trust .
- Mutual support .
- Individual Project / Common Project … (a patient said: “space, but also sharing…” It was an older couple… and that was their way of understanding it and claiming their space).
- Sexual satisfaction… (Many say “sex”, but having sex is not enough to be happy, it has to be satisfying).
- Complicity / Empathy… (the term “empathy”, and its concept, is now beginning to be better known at a popular level).
The last two seem to be the least obvious in consultation.
- Sense of humor .
- Admiration .
With regard to admiration, the following should be clarified. In couples therapy, falling in love is not very helpful, in some cases it can be a real problem . We do not consider it as something positive or necessary in the couple’s relationship. Nor do we despise it happily or gratuitously, at all.
On the other hand, admiration is fundamental to guarantee a good development in the couple’s relationship, even when there are important problems.
The final part: evaluation
The next part of the exercise is shorter and I ask you to work on it individually. I give each of you a pen of a different exotic color and then ask you to give the couple, as a team, a score from 0 to 10 for each of the aspects named. Let them remember that they are both evaluated as a whole… and to write down the score next to that aspect. I’m giving them some time to think and to put their scores down. If they find it difficult to understand, I’ll give them an exaggerated example so they can understand.
I ask that once you’ve finished putting up your notes you pass me your papers. I take a look at your lists and evaluations, and I give you back your partner’s so you can see how you evaluate the whole thing. From this point on, we go through all their scores together and explore every aspect of them. This provides a good basis for couples therapy .
The happy couple decalogue is only a tool, and it will depend on practice and other variables to be able to get enough out of it so that its execution can take a series of sessions. However, is very useful because it allows you to deploy many other strategies and assess the state of the problem .
The fact that the members of the couple can evaluate their relationship as a whole is very helpful, and their way of dealing with this activity gives us a lot of information and allows the couple to be aware of the state of their relationship in each of these aspects.
In some cases, it helps the couple start to separate. Many others, to work in the most vulnerable areas. It offers endless possibilities, that’s why I use this exercise often.