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If you’re at all like me you probably have a TV, and are subjected daily to news about all the rancor between the Republican, and Independent candidates competing to be the nominee against Barack Obama in the next presidential race. If you’re a real glutton for punishment, (like me), you probably also watch the news about all the fighting in Congress over issues about healthcare, job creation, and the national debt, etc.
We see the players hit stalemates with some frequency, polarizing about the “right” or “wrong” view of the issues, and then about “right” or “wrong” solutions to those problems. What’s missing most often are bipartisan solutions which incorporate mutual concerns, and work well enough for everybody.
This is what I see happens for lots of couples. They argue about what really happened, who started the problem, and what the “right” solution would be. (Does this sound familiar?) The issue could be as mundane as which restaurant to go to for dinner, or as weighty as how and when to discipline the children. Whatever the issue, it’s a battle for who will get their way, and who will be acknowledged as “right”. But if one partner is “right”, then that makes the other one “wrong”. If one “wins,” the other loses.
If you’re guilty of this polarizing stance, as most of us are at times, just look at the political scene to get an accurate picture of the likely outcome. It doesn’t bode well for any relationships, whether you’re a member of Congress facing legislation with your peers, or whether you’re in a couple dealing with disciplining the kids. If you want happier relationships with everyone, then you must “reach across the aisle” and seek “bipartisan solutions”!
PS. If you’re interested in seeing my initial selection of articles which will give you tools and insights about how to have happier, closer relationships with everybody, go to the “Products” page of my website www.SusanLager.com. The page will be open for purchases any day now! (I promise).
PSS. (The holdup isn’t because I’m sitting around yelling at the TV 24/7. It’s because I’ve been in the process of publishing my first book, “I’m Talking! Are You Listening? Fix Communication Problems With Your Partner In No Time Flat!”) Look for it soon on Amazon.com in paperback, then soon afterward as an ebook available for Kindle.
As a couples therapist I routinely see couples struggling with decisions which make nobody happy! Natalie wants one thing, Ned wants something else, (or so it seems). They then either slug it out emotionally until one person gets their way, or they “take their marbles and go home” – withdrawing into their respective corners with animosity because they couldn’t come to some kind of reasonable agreement.
Marriage and partnerships are all about negotiation, whether it’s when and where we go on vacation, or how and when we tackle home projects, or which school to send the kids to. The worst thing couples do is to come up with “win-lose” or “either-or” solutions. In negotiation language we call that a dismal failure. The aim instead is to move toward “both-and” or “win-win” solutions, where each partner may give something up, but also gets something important to them. So if Ned wants to spend time in the Fall working on home projects, and Natalie wants a trip, the goal is to see how either they can do both reasonably, or take turns getting their way. The most critical thing is to craft solutions which address key parts of each of their concerns, not polarize around differences.
How good a negotiator are you in your partnership?
Have a mutually good end of summer,
As usual in June, I’ve noticed more cancellations for therapy and coaching sessions lately. People are capitalizing on the random glorious weather, and understandably wanting to leave their problems behind, and have some fun! The beaches are starting to get more active, the lobster joints busier, and the garden shops are humming. I love this time of year in Maine and New Hampshire as it comes alive with tourists and locals spending time and money enjoying themselves. The therapist in me has a word of caution, however: Remember that “fun” isn’t just about where you are and what you’re doing, but whom you’re with, and whether the activity, timing, and unfolding of it feels mutually desirable. Unless you love your solitude as “fun”, remember that “fun” is usually about something co-created and often negotiated. It won’t be fun for your partner if you jam something they feel is unsavory down their throat, like dump-picking, or long hikes in the woods in 90 degree weather. Remember to negotiate what you both do, and how and when you do it! Then when you ask, “Are we having fun yet?”, you’ll probably get a resounding, “OH, YES!!“
Off to the beach,
PS. If you have kids, try to do things you enjoy also. It will be more fun for all.
Good Evening Reader,
When you get in your car and go on a trip, if you are female you know the importance of using a map if you hope to arrive at a decent place in good time. If you are a male, chances are you don’t ask for directions, but you rely on your “internal map” to get there. Either way, it’s a combination of a vision which provides some structure, and an organic unfolding– stopping to enjoy the sights, or spontaneously taking some unexpected turns. It’s the same way in intimate relationships– it helps to have an idea or vision for what you want to accomplish together, or how you want to grow, or how you want the “rules” of your partnership to change. If historically you’ve gotten into some predictable, bad scrapes with each other, you need to have a kind of map directing you to other dynamics, fueled by negotiated ideas or pictures of where you want to end up. I’ve seen this unfold in my work with couples quite a bit this week, maybe because it’s Spring, and a time of new growth, or maybe because we’re all getting smarter about this relationship stuff.
One thing I know for sure is that partner visioning gives couples a destination, and when it’s done thoughtfully, couples establish “markers” of change which guide the way. Establishing a direction is usually a helpful thing, unless you’re blindly heading North on a Southbound road.
Hopefully moving forward,
P.S. Look for more on this topic, including exercises for implementing partner vision-work on my soon-to-be-born website: HowToBeABetterCouple.com