Our Collaborative Marriage – Why It Works

I never thought The Fergersons would have anything in common with The Wade’s. Honestly, I haven’t liked Gabrielle Union for years. First there was the drama surrounding her being a ‘homewrecker’ as my first marriage was disintegrating. Then, in an interview with Oprah she admitted to being a reformed mean girl of Hollywood and I thought “I knew there was a reason I didn’t like her”.

But, I recently read an excerpt from a People Magazine interview of the Wade’s on their “collaborative marriage”. My first thought was ‘I still don’t like Gabrielle Union’; my next one was ‘Huh, I like the sound of that’.

I was impressed. Some of these reality TV shows portray celebrity marriages with husbands and wives as frustrated, confused, and restricted by their marriage. Probably because they fear losing their identity.

But it’s my experience that a collaborative marriage actually leads to happy, satisfied, confident, spouses.

What is a Collaborative Marriage?

The Wades spoke of giving each other “support” for what they individually need in their lives personally and professionally. Of his wife, Dwyane says “It’s not my job to change who she is, it’s my job to be part of the evolution”.

They also say they have “transparency” especially because both are on their second marriage.

I can relate to this because my husband and I have very vulnerable, unrestricted conversations in our collaborative marriage. We openly discuss our previous marriages – mistakes, triggers, lessons, etc. It’s proven to be a strengthening aid and trust building factor.

When we married, my very wise uncle (and officiant) said: “Play on each other’s strengths”. We’ve taken his words to heart; we let each other shine where they’re strongest.

In addition to our spiritual routine we focus on personal development and self identity. We use tools like Myers Briggs, Enneagram, Love Language, etc. to understand what makes each other thrive. Seriously, it’s the intellectual conversations for me – DEEP. Even when compromises are made it’s with love and a keen awareness of why it’s necessary for the other person.

Collaborative marriages work by encouraging each spouse to:

  • Ask for what you need.
  • Be vulnerable with your feelings.
  • Be truthful and say what you really think.
  • Remember to give respect.
  • Be willing to compromise.
  • Slow down and be present.
  • Take risks together.
  • Be willing to give as well as receive.
  • Practice the art of forgiveness.
  • Love each other the way they need to be loved.

In our collaborative marriage we also consider Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (simplypsychology.org)

The lower (physiological, safety) hierarchy needs must first be satisfied before attending to the higher needs. But it shouldn’t stop there.

It’s usually when the higher needs are neglected that one or both spouse becomes disconnected and dissatisfied. So, we make it an individual and collaborative responsibility to attend to our spiritual, psychological and self-fulfilling needs.

If there’s anything we each learned from going through a divorce, it’s that happiness is an inside job – individually and in our marriage. A supportive spouse who encourages you to maintain your identity both in and away from the marriage is the icing on the cake.

Just the other day, I scrolled pass Deliver Us From Eva (movie starring Gabrielle Union and LL Cool J) on Netflix. I’ve seen it before. But, my dislike for Gabrielle keeps me from watching it again. And that’s pretty serious considering how much I love LL!

So, I’m still not a fan of that girl.

However, on the topic of “Collaborative Marriages” Gabrielle is alright with me.