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Problem Solving Together

Topics: Couples

Skill building:


When concerns arise, it can help to ask, “Is there a problem that can be solved here?” If the answer is “yes,” problem solving can help to define the specific problem that you would like to tackle, come up with possible solutions, and make a plan.


Things to consider…

Working through a problem using the problem-solving steps below:

To start, practice these steps with simple everyday issues, then try these skills with more challenging problems.

Do you want to know more about this?

Problem-solving steps can be done individually or as a couple. Practicing problem-solving skills can help navigate current issues and prevent future problems. When there are multiple problems to be solved, it is often better to tackle them one at a time.

When deciding to problem solve as a couple, consider what is required:

  • Motivation and willingness by both partners
  • Acknowledgment and agreement by both partners that there is a problem to be solved
  • Collaboration throughout the process
  • Effective communication (see Speaking and Listening Skills)
  • Negotiation (being open to compromise, with both partners considering and weighing options calmly and thoughtfully)
Skill building:
Date night planning

Planning date nights can be challenging, particularly for PSP couples with nonstandard schedules. The upside is that it can be a great way to practice problem-solving skills and also enjoy some couple time!

To give it a try, make a commitment together to plan a date night (or date morning/afternoon) at least once a week for the next month. The dates do not have to be big outings – at-home dates count too –  so start with plans that are easier for you to make work. To begin, try the following:

  • Designate a time when you can plan the dates together
  • Have your calendars/schedules handy
  • As you begin to plan, make note of any problems that arise (e.g., conflicting schedules, childcare, fatigue, finances, etc.)
  • Focus on one problem at a time and work through the problem-solving steps together

After you have successfully negotiated your weekly date, take time to reflect on your experience problem solving together:

  • What did you find helpful?
  • What challenges came up when working through this process?
  • What did you learn?

After one month, how did you do? You may want to continue scheduling date nights or come up with other ways to spend quality time together. Taking opportunities to practice problem solving as a couple is a way to improve these skills and strengthen your relationship.

References for this page (click to expand)

Dattilio, F. M. (2010). Cognitive-behavioral therapy with couples and families: A comprehensive guide for clinicians. The Guilford Press.

Dattilio, F. M. & van Hout, G. C. M. (2006). The problem-solving component in cognitive-behavioral couples’ therapy. Journal of Family Psychotherapy, 17(1), 1-19. https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1300/J085v17n01_01

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