Sometimes, we get a great idea, so sure our partner will go gaga for it, and come to find out, he’s so preoccupied with something else, it’s a non-starter. That first refusal comes out insulting or avoiding; we dig in, insist. He’s staunch in his determination to stick to plans and get things done. And before you know it, both partners are on defensive footing, jockeying for control. And of course, a fight ensues.
“You never act spontaneously with me and we never have fun!”
“You always want me to just drop things where they are to run off with you.”
“Why can’t you be more flexible? I don’t want our lives to be predictable and prescribed all the time!”
However the pattern is built and the conversation flows, it is so easy to get caught in this pattern of always and nevers, you can’ts and I don’ts. Before you know it, no one’s doing anything they want to be doing. And, they’re doing it angrily!
Rather than sticking to the same old script that leads to eruptions and festering animosity, find a way to avoid it by seeking a win-win. Identify the differing positions, talk about what the real concerns are (e.g. “I want to get these bills paid before we leave town for the weekend”), recognize each other’s priorities and preferences, and think it through to see:
How can we work together to achieve both of our goals?
“Ok, I hear you are concerned about getting the bills done now. At the same time, I want to spend some QT with you and give you a treat! Is there a way for me to help you finish the bills faster? Then, I can treat you to that movie you’ve been hoping to see?”
“Well, if you’ll address, stamp and seal, I’ll do these last four and be ready to go!”
Easier said than done. The first step is recognizing the habitual landmines, those triggers of defensive posturing that lure you in. Use the exercise below to see how well you can pick up on some of the triggers, and tell me: which ones sound familiar? How can you use this in your own relationship? Come back later and let me know if it helps or not!
Partnerships are so much more rewarding when they’re done collaboratively and mutually – when the animosity is done away with.