When you choose the Big Picture style, the way in which you and your partner make decisions is quite different from how people often arrive at decisions. In the Big Picture, mutual Our World decisions—those that involve and impact both people—are made together.  Your individual “World” and My Individual World decisions are made individually, but are agreed to and supported by each partner.

In Big Picture Partnering any issue can be brought to the table for discussion; however, nothing goes into the Our World circle until it is fully agreed on by both individuals. Big Picture decision-making is not about compromise. Nor is it about neglecting your own needs in order to attend to those of your partner.Rather, it challenges both partners to become imaginative and to recognize or invent new options together. This approach helps you master the fine art of blending each of your needs into something totally new and unique—an Our World that satisfies both of you.

One-time decisions—what to have for dinner, which movie to go to, or whether to stay home on Friday night—are easy. But sometimes Big Picture Partnering means that couples will discuss and mull things over for a number of weeks, committed to resolve a decision together.

This requires a lot of faith in the partnership and trust in your capability to come out with a Win/Win.

When I’m coaching couples they can be skeptical until they actually walk through the steps to make tough decisions together. Once they achieve their own success, however, they are hooked—gaining confidence in their ability to make decisions together and proud of the strength of their relationship and decisions.

For instance, shortly after Marybeth and Ron got married, they began to pursue the topic of buying a home.

Let me back up and introduce you to this couple. Marybeth and Ron were both 28 years old. They’d dated for 2 1/2 years. Both strong individuals with good jobs and on accelerated career paths. Finances were not an issue. They were close to both extended families and had a big circle of close friends. All great foundation pieces for a healthy relationship. Through Big Picture Partnering coaching pre-wedding, they had reinforced their good relationship with skills and tools that gave them confidence in taking that next big step to marry.

Decision-Making Is A Big Deal

No matter how big or small your issues may seem, making decisions together is critical. Decisions may range from where to buy a house or how to divvy up household chores and childcare, all the way to healing from an affair, or resolving a betrayal such as loss of financial stability or a job due to one partner’s gambling or drinking.

It’s not the magnitude of the decision that is the tipping factor; it’s how you make decisions. If one of you simply gives in, or settles, or compromises too much or too often, chances are resentments will arise sooner or later and undermine your relationship.

Marybeth had warned me during our coaching that there was one big issues on the horizon that made them both anxious, shut down discussion between them and made her feel afraid they might not ever be able to agree on.

It was a loaded topic because Marybeth, who was a sophisticated manager in stiletto heels who wanted to live in the city, and couldn’t picture herself living anywhere else. Ron on the other hand wore blue suits during the day, but was much more laid back. He was less worried about their living arrangement, but Marybeth knew he had always dreamed of a home on a lake, like his family had when he was growing up.

At the time the topic resurfaced, they found it hard to imagine how this might be resolved to the satisfaction of both. Marybeth was most concerned that Ron would just “give in” to her and she didn’t want any resentments further down their relationship. Ron being so laid back and agreeable, I was concerned about this too. I was also excited and curious to see how I could help this couple come together and resolve this big decision in a mutually satisfying way! The Big Picture approach has never failed to produce great results when couples get curious too.


Making Decisions Together When They Feel Irreconcilable

Marybeth and Ron didn’t have anything to lose, nor were they pressured by an immediate timetable, other than a desire to be in their own home together. They were comfortable in Marybeth’s apartment near downtown for the time being but her lease was coming due in 9 months. They could go month-to-month if needed.

So, agreeing to practice their partnering skills with my guidance through tough discussions, Marybeth and Ron diligently worked through these steps over the course of about 5 months:

  • They spent a lot of time sharing and listening deeply to each others needs and fears, desires and dreams regarding the house, the home—which represented a whole lifestyle and choices for this couple.
  • They were encouraged to consider not getting their way and what that might look like and feel like.
  • We tracked their alternating openness and resistance to each other’s desire.
  • Then, they did what I call “Experimenting and Exploring.” This is actually going out and looking, doing research, and investigating options without buying. They took turns looking by lakes and looking in the city.
  • They shared how each exploration made them feel.
  • I asked them to “map” all their options—then together to think of more to explore.

Then, without anticipating a happy resolution being presented them, their realtor, with whom they’d shared their situation and the process they were going through, said they needed to see a little house that had just come on the market. With her on their team, they were shown a little dream home in an unexpected place—halfway between country and city. It had all the right characteristics for each of them. The location was surprisingly pleasing to Marybeth being close to the 15 minute freeway drive to her office downtown. Ron could have a dock on the lake nearby. And the realtor showed them how they could grow in the house over time.

The Big Picture Partnering skills and tools helped them move into their new home within eight months, with no regrets or resentments.

Not long ago, Marybeth called with a check-in. She said in a contented voice:

“I am still surprised at how Ron and I were able to come together on a decision when we initially appeared to be so far apart in what we wanted. Our choice of this little house near one of the inner suburban lakes has pleased both of us so much. Life is going well.”

Since purchasing the home nine years ago, Marybeth and Ron have partnered well on many other decisions. They have remodeled and expanded their little house that’s not so little anymore! They landscaped the yard, Ron moved his offices out of the house after being there for a while. Not only did they expand the house, they also expanded their family, raising three healthy boys and a family dog—all in the home they used to solidify their Big Picture Partnership!



Reflect on your own relationship.


Dr. Jan Hoistad