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Melissa and Mike have lived in the same apartment for five years. It is in a great location near Melissa’s work, but with rising rent, Mike feels that they are throwing their money away.
Their lease is ending in a couple of months, and Mike wants to buy a house. He wants them to lock into monthly payments and have an investment of their own.
Melissa doesn’t want to leave the neighborhood they currently live in, and knows that if they buy something they can afford, they would have to move away from the area she loves.
In addition, her daily commute to work would double or triple, and she would have to move to a not-so-nice neighborhood far away from her friends.
Melissa sees the value of investing in a property, but she does not want the pressure of having a big financial commitment for such a long time.
Although they have discussed in detail each other’s perspectives, Melissa and Mike cannot reach an agreement.
Every time they talk about it, they both end up tense and feeling bitter.
Mike insists that he only wants to do the right thing for both of them and gets very defensive when Melissa disagrees with him.
Melissa feels that Mike is not listening to her, and in order to avoid further conflict, she is about to give in to Mike’s desire to purchase a property—even if she doesn’t feel happy about it.
When conflict arises, most couples do not know how to resolve it in a way that feels good to both parties, because it is a skill that has never been taught to them.
Usually couples do one of the following:
- One of them ends up sacrificing his or her own interests to end the conflict.
- One of them ends up becoming “The Boss” and giving the other an ultimatum of how things are going to be.
- Both engage in an endless power struggle; they fight to see who gets the upper hand and wins the battle.
- One or both partners withdraw and make decisions without considering the other person’s needs or desires because they believe that their partner will not listen or will never agree or cooperate.
Unfortunately, all the above actions lead to toleration and resentment, the key ingredients that eventually extinguish the romantic spark in any relationship.
When partners “give in” or “give up” in order to avoid conflict, a variety of fears and emotions creep in, and slowly but surely kill their enthusiasm about their partner and their relationship.
So what can couples do to resolve conflicts in a way that feels good to both partners?
What can you do if you have a disagreement with your partner, and you feel that he/she is not listening to you?
1. Don’t assume you are communicating well.
If you believe that you communicate well with your partner but are unable to come up with solutions that make both partners feel good, chances are that your mutual communication skills need work.
It might be a good idea to get some coaching, counseling or read a book on the topic and learn how to have safe conversations with each other, especially when you are dealing with delicate matters.
In fact, happy couples become experts at resolving conflicts together almost as soon as they happen.
They know that it takes love, great communication, problem-solving skills, patience, and emotional intelligence from both parts, and they are willing to do the work.
2. Express your desire to reach a mutual agreement.
Using kind words and a nice tone of voice, let your partner know that you want both of you to feel happy with whatever solution you come to.
Remind him or her that you are on the same team trying to win the same game, and that although you are two different people, you also are a partnership and should always look after each other’s interests and feelings.
If only one of you wins and the other one loses, you both lose—because the partnership loses.
3. Validate each other’s thoughts and feelings to come up with a solution that works for both partners.
Every time you have a conversation with your partner and you both are expressing your opinion about an issue, ask each other this regularly:
“How do you feel about this?”
When one partner speaks, the other should listen with an open heart and without being judgmental, trying to really step into the other person’s shoes and see the world through their eyes.
Only after both of you have felt listened to and validated, can you move into the part of trying to find a good solution, one that you both will feel happy about.
To begin, you should both create a list of possible solutions for the particular issue you’re dealing with, then analyze each solution carefully and negotiate until you find the one that you both feel works best—one that doesn’t leave either of you with feelings of toleration or resentment.
If you think that reaching agreements with your partner is almost impossible to achieve, you are mistaken; it is possible!
Negotiating a solution to a problem is like journeying into uncharted territory.
The road to reaching a solution may be bumpy at first, but if you are successful at resolving conflicts and finding mutual agreements in your relationship, you will not only reach the desired destination, but also strengthen your relationship and feel more connected and in love with your partner.
What Actually Saved the Relationship (Hint: It’s not Love).
Author: Silvia Solis
Assistant Editor: Brook Bentley / Editor: Renee Picard
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