Sometimes, in our household, being married to a maximizer means reminding my husband of his strengths and encouraging him to use those strengths to, let’s say, pick out a dog breed for our future very-large family.
And sometimes it means applying attentiveness to which direction I hang clothes on hangers.
But most of the time, the stark differences between how we make decisions — prioritizing ‘the best’ option available versus ‘one that meets all of our most important needs’ — requires some give and take.
Maximizers vs. Satisficers
You see, my husband and I are cut from two very different cloths — something we’ve been navigating for the past 1.5 years of marriage. George is a maximizer, and I am a satisficer.
A maximizer strives to deliver, choose, and prioritize the best of the best. In my husband’s case, this is for every decision he makes, from purchasing the ‘best’ dish sponge to maximizing the diversification of our stock portfolio.
A satisficer, on the other hand, prioritizes certain criteria when making a decision, and as long as those criteria are met, that choice “satisfies” the situation. That doesn’t necessarily mean the choice was less than ‘best’ — a satisficer usually sees a criteria-meeting decision as being a worthy choice.
Obviously, nothing in this world is black and white, so most people are not entirely one or the other. Many people fall somewhere on the continuum between Satisficer to Maximizer. And plenty of people are maximizers in particular areas of their lives, and satisficers in others.
My husband and I just happen to naturally fall toward the extremes of each category, which has made for some quick learning.
The Snowpants Decision has become the most telling example of how we’ve learned to work between our extremes — so much so that it made it into our Best Man’s speech.
When my now-husband (then-boyfriend) and I came home for winter break (we’re from the same hometown) during our freshman year of college, we spent — no exaggeration — an entire day choosing a new pair of snowpants for George.
George trusts Amazon reviews with his life…as long as more than 200 people have reviewed said product. So, naturally, we were scouring Amazon for the perfect pair of pants.
The pants had to have zipper pockets, not velcro; be just the right color (grey scale is always George’s ‘right’ color); cheap but high quality…and the list went on.
As the doting girlfriend, still not a year into this relationship but aware of George’s perfectionist ways, I listened, I nodded, I tried to problem-solve. I put in some effort searching on my phone while he searched on his laptop.
But eventually, I let George finish searching, re-searching, and narrowing down the choices, because, to me the satisficer, the time spent on the project began outweighing the outcome. In my head, George had found a handful of great snowpants and any of the ones he had in his cart met the criteria he’d determined at the beginning of our quest.
Finally, George narrowed down his options to three pairs, all of which he planned to order, try on, and return the ones he didn’t end up needing. And, as a couple, we could move onto the next thing life had to offer.
This is definitely the most extreme example of a decision we both went about contributing to, flexing both our Satisficer and Maximizer muscles.
But as a newly married couple, now trying to navigate the everyday of adulthood, we just don’t have time for that. Which leads me to our new M.O. — compromise.
Allocating Decisions and Compromising
When you talk to anyone about marriage, “compromise” seems to be one of the first words to come across their lips. But it’s a cliché because it’s true — you’re no longer a sole decision maker in your life, so some give-and-take is inevitable.
Perhaps it’s my and my husband’s combination of stubborn, first-born, perfectionist traits that makes our Maximizer and Satisficer traits stand out as key players in many of our life decisions over the last year and a half. But after some reflection and a lot of practice, we’ve determined the following process helps us both feel at ease in making decisions for both of us.
1. Be upfront about what’s most important to you concerning a specific decision.
As a Satisficer, I don’t just jump at the first available choice, just to get the decision off my plate. As a perfectionist myself, I’m actually pretty critical with my criteria.
So what’s worked best for George and me is when we’re both upfront about what’s most important in terms of a decision. If we’re on the same page about criteria, he’s more at ease knowing my decision will incorporate his priorities, and I am comforted by his idea of ‘best’ being based on both of our needs.
2. Allocate decision-making.
When our hair dryer kicks the bucket, picking out a new one should not take 12 hours. With careers, social lives, and a puppy-kitten combo at home, we just can’t afford that amount of time being spent like that. And that wasn’t something too difficult for us to get on the same page about.
So finding a new hair dryer is gladly a task I take on. I can find one that meets our needs (i.e. dries our hair and doesn’t smell like death; seriously) in an efficient amount of time. And George won’t be overcome with the feeling that he needs to find the best one out there.
On the other hand, it’s overwhelming for me to think about spending hours researching safety features to include in our next car purchase. Thankfully, that’s something George loves spending time doing and something we both agree could save our and our children’s lives one day; so we’re okay with weeks of spare time going toward that kind of decision.
3. Check in before making the final decision.
George and I love being a married team — definitely the best team sport we’ve ever played! And with that sentiment, we still make sure to check in before pressing that ‘Buy Car’ button.
He can deck out our future van online with the latest and greatest (and best for the price/non-superfluous) features, but it’s a big purchase, aka life decision.
Just like I won’t press ‘Checkout’ on the next two plane tickets to anywhere that offers fly-fishing before checking in with him.
We allocate the research and decision-process for efficiency, stress-relief, and plain ole sanity. But that final decision is always an ‘us’ thing. A reality check. A 50-50 ‘this is what we’re putting on the Calendar of Life’ moment.
Compromise in marriage isn’t always the 50-50 ideal. In fact, life has already dealt us quite a few 90-10 situations in our first year-and-a-half. But it’s the situations in which we’re each able to be the other’s 90 that leads to a better 50-50.
So when traversing life’s decisions — big and small — we compromise to capitalize on each other’s maximizer and satisficer tendencies, always trusting that we’re working from a place of love, wanting what’s best for the other.