Matt Damon Fixed A Relatable Pain Point In His Life With Couples Therapy
Negotiating the demands of work, your marriage, and your children isn’t always easy. Take a page from Matt Damon’s book.
In a recent interview for Oppenheimer, conducted before the SAG-AFTRA strike, Matt Damon opened up about having to negotiate his work-life balance with his wife before saying “yes” to taking on his latest movie role. The moment in the interview is brief, but it illustrates the power that negotiation and boundary-setting can have when navigating the tension between work and marriage.
Let’s face it. Matt Damon is a busy guy, Over the past few years, Damon has starred in, or produced, several titles, including Stillwater, The Last Duel, and Air, and made cameo appearances in No Sudden Move and Thor: Love and Thunder. He also currently has four acting jobs and eight production roles in various stages of development, according to IMDb, already in the works. To say he’s been busy is very likely an understatement.
Given the hectic schedule of an actor — a job that is very different than a typical 9-to-5 — it’s safe to assume his wife, Luciana, has had to shoulder a lot more at home, including taking the lead on raising their four daughters, 24-year-old Alexia, 16-year-old Isabella, 14-year-old Gia, and 12-year-old Stella. Damon essentially confirmed this assumption, admitting that he had promised Luciana that he would take time off work — only to accept a new role in Oppenheimer soon after.
"This is going to sound made up, but it's actually true," Damon shared during EW's Around the Table, filmed pre-strike with Oppenheimer director Christopher Nolan and his co-stars. "I had — not to get too personal — negotiated extensively with my wife that I was taking time off.”
Damon explained that he and Luciana had been in couples therapy to help negotiate their skewed work-life balance, with Luciana wanting him to take time away. But Damon wanted a caveat added before he agreed to step back from work for a while.
“I actually negotiated in couples therapy — this is a true story — the one caveat to my taking time off was if Chris Nolan called [to offer a movie role],” Damon shared. “This is without knowing whether or not he was working on anything because he never tells you. He just calls you out of the blue. And so, it was a moment in my household."
While it may seem like Damon went back on his word or that he’s not considering the work-life balance from Luciana’s perspective after agreeing to take on the role in Oppenheimer (which is directed by Nolan), it sounds like these two took all the best steps. Not so they would be on the same page or see eye-to-eye with each other, but to find a better balance that works for both their needs.
"Negotiating work-life balance usually requires ongoing, collaborative discussion (not one and done) about each person’s needs, goals, longings, challenges, what’s working/not working in their current system," L. Emily Dowling, M.S., LMFT, CCTP, a licensed marriage and family therapist who isn't speaking specifically about Damon’s situation, but more broadly about best practices for good communication in a relationship, tells Fatherly.
During these discussions, Dowling says it’s important for couples to be honest about their needs, wishes, and potential caveats. “It can be really helpful for partners to identify potential future issues, exceptions, or caveats to Plan A so they can collaborate on a Plan B or C,” she notes.
“Many of us appreciate the predictability that comes from making a plan together. And the process of collaboration itself can be an opportunity for deeper connection between partners.”
Dowling adds that couples therapy can be a great tool to help in situations where partners find their needs out of sync with each other. “The process of how partners communicate is usually key to both people feeling understood and cared for in these kinds of discussions – and it’s often where couples need the most help,” she explains.
“Couples therapy is sometimes a great tool to utilize in these negotiations. Not so the therapist can decide what the ‘right’ course of action is for the couple, but to offer support as a process consultant on how they engage in the discussions.”
However, even with the best-laid plans, take care to do thoughtful negotiations through situations similar to what Damon and his wife worked through. After all, people are fluid, and “life has a way of teaching us that we can’t plan for every potential exception,” Dowling warns.
“We can’t always predict how we’ll feel when the already-discussed exceptions occur! Partners might agree wholeheartedly on a caveat to their plan in the initial discussions but then find one or both of them feel totally different when the exception occurs,” she explains.
“When this happens, the process of how partners communicate is once again key to effectively facing the challenge together.”
Watch the full Around the Table discussion from EW here.