A Deeper Look at Relationship Talk.
Just as there’s no crying in baseball, there’s no arguing in committed relationships. Yes, there’s disagreement because we’re all different. Yes, there’s discussion if our views are different. But, within the discussion there’s respect. Then, there’s negotiation and compromise.
Ed and Lisa came into my office and as they sat down, we started talking. Their son, Don, 20, is looking at universities in California and Pennsylvania; he wants an environmental degree.
Lisa remarked, in a conversational way, that she thought California might be the better choice for Don. Ed didn’t wait a millisecond. He hopped in, clearly annoyed, “Why do you say that?” Lisa said that she really wasn’t promoting anything; California just made sense to her. It often leads the country on new issues. Ed replied, “That’s a careless way to think about such a big decision.” In those few moments, Lisa’s whole attitude changed from open and friendly to withdrawn.
This kind of talk is pretty normal for them. When I asked about it, Lisa sighed and said, “It happens constantly.” Ed reluctantly agreed. Lisa made it clear that she’s worn out, actually exhausted by it; they’ve been doing it for 28 years. She’s decided she can’t go on unless there’s a change in their communication and in some other areas of the marriage.
What’s Wrong With This Situation?
Ed’s arguing “to win.” He has an overwhelming belief that he’s right no matter what the topic is. So, he resists most of what other people say, including Lisa, without even thinking. Is he aware that he’s focused on being “right” instead of focused on “relating?” No. He’s on AutoPilot. In other words, he automatically responds; it’s a habit.
Good talk calls for respecting your partner. You value your partner enough to listen carefully. Also, you’re able to tell your own thoughts without impatience, annoyance or attempts at control. Your partner gives you the same respectful listening.
In negotiating you both discuss your thoughts to get clear what each of you means. (In all communication, it’s the meaning that’s so important. We’re not always able to choose just the right words right away. You and your partner might need a couple of tries.)
And, finally, if you need to agree on a solution, then you both compromise. Each of you gives some and gets some. (We don’t always get exactly what we want. As adults, we understand that.) There’s a reward for compromising: your twosome team remains solid.
So you can see that: Partners who give respect (value the other person enough to listen carefully), who negotiate (work to find areas of agreement), and then, who compromise (are willing to make concessions) are relationship-savers.
This process is a necessary core piece of partnering. If you practice it routinely with good will, you’ll be rewarded with moments of intimacy and a lifetime of friendship.
What happened to Ed and Lisa? Over time, Ed learned that he didn’t have to feel threatened by Lisa’s comments or suggestions. He didn’t have to defend his right to an opinion. He learned that he could: (1) listen to her, (2) ask questions if he needed more information and (3) tell his thoughts in a non-aggressive way. It took him some time to drop his old beliefs and adopt new ones but he did it. Frankly, it saved the marriage.
Big Ideas In This Article.
1. Each partner is responsible for using these processes: respectful discussion, negotiation, compromising.
2. Listening for what your partner “means” is key.
3. “Good Will” means absolutely no competition.
Warm regards until
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