Relationship Tip: The 5-3-1 Rule

Amy Keyishian

There's this relationship tip I've seen mentioned on several websites, and I'm sure it came from a book somewhere -- but I'm darned if I can find the original source. But it's an interesting one. When it comes time to agree on a relationship choice, you might be the kind of couple who gets caught up in the endless swirling eddy of "what do you wanna do?" "I dunno, whadda you wanna do?"

Or you might be the kind that squares off and disagrees passionately, to the point where dinner's delayed by an hour because neither of you could choose a takeout menu. Either way, this is a neat new trick to try.

Get ready, though. There's math. It's called the 5-3-1 rule, and it goes like this:

One of you offers five choices (of activities, restaurants, or TV shows -- whatever). The other eliminates two of those choices, no explanation necessary, leaving three. Then the original partner eliminates another two choices. Whichever one is left, that's the one you go with. Period.

It's so crazy, it just might work. Why is it better than just having two choices? Well, it probably forces you to be more creative and come up with some less obvious options -- ones that you both might like, rather than the same-old same-old.

Of course, you have to make sure you take turns being the one to choose the first five, since that person ultimately makes the final decision. If you're married to a lawyer, he might be really, really good at picking five places, weighting them for your preferences, and anticipating the ones you'll ditch, guaranteeing himself a trip to Emmy's Spaghetti Shack every time. (Yep, dated a lawyer for five years. Yep, this kind of thing is why he's an ex.) (Sorry, lawyers.)

This kind of thing might not be appropriate for a huge decision like a baby name. Then again, I see so many posts in CafeMom where a couple simply can't see eye-to-eye on any name -- maybe this is a good way to at least find ones neither hates as much. (Never mind that I don't understand why a couple who disagrees this much is even a couple …)

Similarly, you can try the old "flip a coin" trick. You flip a coin to decide between two choices, but rather than committing to the one you choose, you look at your feelings when you see which one comes up. If you're disappointed, then you know the other one was what you really wanted. That's more for personal choices than relationship ones, but you can still use this 5-3-1 method to get to one choice -- and then discuss that one rationally, since you came to it collaboratively.

Have you used the 5-3-1 method to make a decision? How did it go?

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