Marriage & Relationships
In this mini series of posts on Marriage & Relationships, I’ve talked about:
and now I’m taking a super practical look at what to do to avoid that damaging compromise situation I mentioned in my last post.
In that post I talked about the danger of creating corrosive resentment in your marriage by compromising. I can hear you saying, ‘it’s all very well but what do we do when we disagree if we can’t compromise?’ Good question.
The answer is to talk about the issue until you both reach an ‘enthusiastic agreement’ about the solution. This is based on the Policy of Joint Agreement from the MarriageBuilders programme. I’m not a fan of everything from Marriage Builders but their Policy of Joint Agreement is something I’ve used for years not only with therapy clients (in marriage and other relationships) but also in my own life and it works.
What do I need to do?
Let’s start with where you’re trying to get to. You’re aiming for a solution that makes your spouse happy AND you are avoiding any solution that makes your spouse unhappy.
You need to keep in the forefront of your mind that the negotiation is NOT about you getting what you want (waaaat?!), it’s about making your spouse happy. If you get off track with this practice, it’s likely you’re not focusing on that objective – making.your.spouse.happy. If you keep that as your sole focus, you will reach a solution you’re both happy with.
Again I want to emphasise, this is not about you being a doormat – this only works when your spouse is on the same page and also committed to making you happy. You BOTH need to be focused on making the other person happy. If this is one-sided and only one person has bought into focusing on the happiness of the other person, you won’t get where you want to be – in enthusiastic agreement. Make sense?
Ok, so let’s get started with how to put this into practice with your own relationship…
Here are some guidelines for successful negotiation based on those suggested by Marriage Builders on how to work a Policy of Joint Agreement:
Set ground rules
- play nice. Be pleasant AT ALL TIMES. No matter what you feel the other side is doing or saying.
- don’t make demands, get angry or show disrespect. No exceptions.
- if you get stuck or you can’t keep to the ground rules, stop and come back to the negotiation again later. ‘Later’ needs to be agreed the next day. You don’t have to resume the next day but you have to agree when you’re going to it.
I know you’ve heard this before, keep calm during discussions. Common sense right? But common sense doesn’t mean it’s common practice. Make it your practice. Be aware of when you’re making a demand, getting angry or speaking disrespectfully. And stop yourself. Sarcasm has no place here. Try to avoid accusations, don’t bring up past disagreements, try to avoid the words, ‘always’ and ‘never’. I know you know these things, but you need to practice them to succeed with this.
Identify the problem
Each of you write down the problem from the other person’s point of view. You can’t move forward until the other person agrees that you’ve fairly defined how they see the issue. This will get you into the habit of seeing things from the other person’s pov and will force you to see it fairly, even if you’re disagreeing right now.
Brainstorm possible solutions.
Get creative! Quantity not quality is fine for this. What crazy ideas can you come up with to solve this? It might take a few sessions over a few days to do this. Keep a notebook handy so you can jot down ideas that occur to you outside your negotiations.
A solution which sets the other person to win now in return for you to win another time is not a solution here. That’s sacrifice and compromise, that’s what we’re avoiding. Equality of sacrifice is not the answer. Only solutions which make you both happy are acceptable.
Choose the solution
Ta da! You’ve come up with a solution you can both agree on. Maybe you’ve come up with several solutions. Yay! If you’ve got more than one possible solution, pick the one you’re both most enthusiastic about. The one that brings about maximum happiness!
Enjoy the process
This is an opportunity for you to learn about your spouse, how they feel, what they think.
It’s also an opportunity to make your spouse happy – what’s not to like about that? Isn’t that what you’re promising in your marriage vows?
So there you have it – practical strategies for how to reach enthusiastic agreement with your spouse to get to a win-win everytime.
Further marriage & relationship posts
I’ve had some lovely feedback on this relationship series of posts which I’d originally intended as a one-off. People have been surprised to see relationship posts on a wedding venue website – but just think about that for a moment. Your marriage is what happens after the wedding – shouldn’t you be as prepared for that as you were for your wedding? Imagine if you put as much time into your marriage each year as you put into your wedding. The.same.amount.of.time. Wow. Imagine what a great marriage you’d have. So I’m going to come back with a monthly post about relationships and how to have the marriage of your dreams after the wedding of your dreams.
If you’ve got any ideas about topics for discussion, things you’ve struggled with, things you’d like to hear about, drop me a line and let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org