He wanted to buy a boat. She didn’t.
She preferred saving the little bit of money they had left over every month until they had enough saved up before buying something extravagant like a boat. He didn’t want to wait. He pictured holidays camping, fishing, and skiing with his kids – all of which in his mind required a boat. They disagreed. They fought. They went round and round.
One day, he went out and bought a boat without the “go ahead” from his wife. She was pissed. He parked the boat in their driveway – a neon sign in her mind of his lack of regard for her concerns.
Unfortunately, even though he got the boat, he didn’t get his dream vacation. For one, after buying the boat, he and his wife couldn’t afford to take it anywhere and actually use it. And two, she was so angry that she didn’t want to have anything to do with the darn thing. It just sat there in their driveway for who knows how long as a memento of their lack of alignment.
Conflicts like these are commonplace. When in relationship with anyone – whether spouse, children, parents, co-workers, friends, or ex’s – it is inevitable that I am going to want one thing and somebody is going to want something else.
Examples abound: I want to go out to the movies and you want to stay home. I want us to make dinner together and you want to putz in the garage until dinner is ready. I want to have sex and you don’t. I want to invite my family home for the holidays and you want to vacation by ourselves in the Bahamas. I want to move in, get married and have a baby and you want an open relationship with Shirley. I want to move to another country and you want to stay put. I want to splurge and buy a fancy new car and you prefer saving every penny and driving our ten-year old dented Ford until it dies.
At first glance, in conflicts like these, it looks like we are on opposite sides of an issue, where only ONE of us can win and get what we want. I, of course, want that winner to be me, so I push and pull and argue for MY position without much interest in even listening to your position lest I be swayed in your direction. This way of approaching conflicts keeps us at a standstill, with little or no movement on issues that matter most to us. Or, like the couple above with the boat, one person moves ahead and on the surface gets what he wants, but with a large negative lasting consequence to the relationship. If left unresolved, some issues become deal breakers that lead to estrangement, separation or divorce.
Luckily, we have a whole new way to approach conflict that leads to connection, love and harmonious solutions.
First, it is essential that we move as partners rather than as adversaries when disagreements arise, to believe and trust that whatever is coming up is happening FOR both of us for some positive good purpose.
Second, we must really listen to each other to understand each other before lighthearted creation is possible. What do we want? And why is it so important to us? What is it we want to create? What is the concern we are trying to take care of? What is the experience we are going after? What are we afraid will happen if we don’t get what we want? What old stories are getting activated that aren’t really about the current issue at hand?
Once fully expressed and heard, it is helpful to take on the other person’s point of view so you can step into the other person’s position fully.
And then to take ownership of the other person’s position, concerns, needs and wants as fully as your own, to commit to win/win solutions. Commit to not moving forward on any major decision until there is full and complete alignment. Come up with creative solutions that take care of both of you.
We believe that every time there is an impasse, that something even better wants to be created. For example, had that couple with the boat worked with us before taking action, they could have emerged happier and closer than ever with a win/win solution like renting a boat for a weekend on a lake with friends as one possibility for how to both get their needs met.
Just as we can’t see the forest through the trees, it is challenging to see new possibilities from inside of our own conflicts sometimes without guidance and support. If you are feel stuck in conflicts and impasses that go nowhere, if you trigger the bejesus out of each other to the point of saying and doing things you regret, or if you feel resigned about ever getting what you really want in your relationship world, we strongly recommend you join us for The Gift of Conflict workshop April 29-30 in Auburn.
For the first time ever, we are opening up this course to people outside of our Mastery Program, so that you too can benefit from the tools we teach at the Gift of Conflict for the rest of your life. Act now while space is still available!