A recent article in the Wall Street Journal suggested that, just as work relationships hold year-end reviews for performance, there may be benefits to such critiques in our personal lives as well. Although written in a humorous, tongue-in-cheek tone, points are made that are worth serious consideration.
As a counselor who has done work with managed care companies I have been required to undergo quarterly reviews by a supervisor. On one occasion, it was decided that peer reviews would be conducted and should be more effective. The end result was an awful experience. Evaluation feedback was given anonymously, quickly making a group of people who previously worked well as a team suspicious of each other. Peer reviews were deemed as a bad idea and were never held again.
Can a performance review from your significant other—also a peer—really be beneficial? To be evaluated by anyone automatically puts that person in a superior or dominant position; exactly the opposite of an equal loving relationship.
Which categories should be covered? Certainly being on the same page with your partner regarding money attitudes, personal habits, raising the kids, and dealing with your extended family are important areas to include. Another issue to consider is specific criteria. Which aspects of your relationship should you include? Strengths and weaknesses should be discussed, as well as appreciation for what’s already working.
Job reviews, ideally, result in improved performance, but other elements must be in place for this to happen. The best outcomes are the result of honest, clear, positive and negative feedback. There must also be a level of trust and respect between both parties. Incentive to change, in the form of some type of reward, is important as well. With regard to employment, that reward usually means a pay raise, more vacation time, or other tangible financial benefits. Rewarding good performance within a personal relationship is important too. How would you reward your partner, or yourself? As a counselor, I would recommend a reward that benefits both partners in a relationship as opposed to separate “prizes.” Or should it be diamonds, sexual favors, or no housework. The reward needs to motivate each partner to work hard in order to maintain consistent energy for the changes needed.
The most significant aspect of a relationship performance review, however, boils down to your personal connection as a couple. How well you communicate will be the biggest determining factor in whether a performance review will benefit your relationship or not.
For couples who are struggling and not feeling connected, a performance review would likely have a negative effect and cause serious damage to an already fragile relationship. You must both feel your relationship is strong enough to withstand this kind of direct feedback.
A personal performance review should never be a substitute for counseling. If there is any inkling that either partner needs therapeutic help, this evaluation is not for you and could cause major problems for your relationship.
As a couples counselor who specializes in Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT), I would only recommend a performance review to those who are already feeling very connected to each other. These couples have learned, through the benefits of EFT, that they are capable of objectively looking at their own faults. They can face the painful areas and are aware of their triggers. Being able to discuss their feelings and needs with their partners has bonded and strengthened their own connection. A personal performance review between these two people can take their relationship to a higher level.
In the end, what do you do with the evaluation once complete? Hopefully, you can discuss it lovingly over dinner with a few laughs, as does the couple described in the Wall Street Journal article. If not, for any disagreements or areas of unclear resolution, here again, seeing a couples counselor could be of benefit. Having a mediator to help resolve any issues that have been uncovered in your performance review can keep the relationship moving forward, potentially making a good relationship into a great one.
I highly recommend an emotionally-focused therapist to help improve any relationship. Good relationships are hard work. Being brave and bringing up your needs and what’s important to you does not come easily for most people. Being vulnerable, and allowing your partner to do the same requires a strong sense of trust. Sharing on this level brings a closeness like no other. Regarding your partner’s happiness as important as your own shows respect and unconditional love. A strong bond can resolve all other less significant issues. By learning to appreciate the small things in your everyday lives together, and taking small, steady steps toward your improvement goals is the best way to reach your common relationship objectives.
So, after weighing the pros and cons of a year-end performance review between significant others, my conclusion is: If you have waited until the end of the year to air your grievances, express your appreciation, or discuss changes you’d like to incorporate in your relationship, you have failed the evaluation!!!
Sharing your feelings about any issue in your partnership should be happening every day, as it arises, throughout your life together.
Year-end performance reviews are best left in the workplace.