How do you do remain on the same team during these stressful corona virus times? And do you communicate with your partner when you disagree?
When you’re in conflict and you’re disagreeing, it seems like you’re on opposite sides. It’s tempting to think that if you would only do it my way, we’d be fine. My way is better, right?
When I hear that from my partner, I’m thinking she’s just telling me I’m wrong and that I’m not doing it right and that my way isn’t a good enough. In the back of my mind, I’m thinking she’s doing it on purpose and she’s out to get. Now I really feel like we’re adversaries on opposite teams.
Give The Benefit Of The Doubt
Our first tip is to give your partner the benefit of the doubt. What we mean by that is that anything you want has a positive intent under it. There’s something good you’re going for and the same is true for your partner. Whatever it is your partner is wanting there’s something positive underneath it that they are going for which it’s just as important as what you’re going for.
So if your partner says your family shouldn’t leave the house, not even for taking a walk in the park, but you think it’s totally fine under these circumstances to take a walk in the park, give your partner the benefit of the doubt and look for what’s the positive intention she or he are trying to get to by saying we shouldn’t go out and take a walk in the park.
Even if you didn’t ask directly – which would be a good idea – you can what their positive intention might be. It might be wanting to make sure everyone and that you don’t contribute to the spread of the virus. That’s a good intention. You’d probably agree with keeping everyone safe and not spreading the virus. Your intentions are aligned even if you go about accomplishing the intention differently.
Expand To Include
This is a central notion in the LoveWorks Solution that we teach. I expand my understanding and mindset to be big enough to include yours. In disagreements, we often think only one of us is right or can be right, but in truth, it’s possible that we’re both right. Expand to include the idea that your partner has a good idea, as do you. It’s about being a big enough person to hold more than one viewpoint without getting combative.
We live by the idea that your concerns matter as much as mine, and my concerns are not more important than yours and yours are not more important than mine. Both of our desires are valid and we strive to make sure we both get what we want. Because you say we shouldn’t go to the park and I say we could, we now start looking for ways to take care of both those desires. On the surface they look mutually exclusive, but as you saw above, the positive intentions underneath are not mutually exclusive.
Speak In “We”
Speaking in “we” means finding the place where there’s overlap and expand to include both our viewpoints and desires. If we think of ourselves as a unit, or a union, it’s as she’s the voice for we should go to the park, and I’m the voice for we should go to the park.
Sonika was just coaching a man for whom this was the exact issue of contention between him and his wife. She wanted to go to the park to get some exercise and he really wanted her to stay home. They live in a tiny apartment in a big city in India. He got scared every time she went out, but as he began to expand to include her needs and concerns and begin to see it from her point of view as well as his own, and began to speak in terms of “we”, he actually came up with a couple of different ideas.
One ideas was for how they could exercise together in the apartment with dancing or some kind of activity that created connection between them. He also came up with the idea to go out with her on a walk so he could reassure himself that she was being safe when she was out there. This too created connection for them in their relationship. He was basically saying, “WE want to be and and WE want exercise” … how do we do both? Which is much better than arguing about who’s right.
Give First, Give Fast
When relationships break down, in pretty much any form, one or both partners have stopped giving. In the early phase of your relationship, when you were still madly in love, remember how much attention, praise, time, touch, love, hugs, and sex you gave each other? Now think about a stressful time in your relationship – perhaps now? – and see if you are giving less? Probably so. One of the most effective ways to restore love, and to get back to being a team, is to pick up giving. We say whoever gives first, wins. Don’t wait for the other person to start.
When we’re in disagreement, we tend to focus on what we can get, and when we both focus on what we can get it creates a tug-of-war. Instead, explore what you are willing to give. Like the man above. He really did want to give his wife the experience of walking in the park and getting to exercise. She really did want to give him an experience of them being safe. They came up with ways to give that to each other.
Create Win-Win Solutions
In order to find solutions that work for both of you, you need to slow down the process. If you just plow ahead with your practiced behaviors and patterns, you’ll like just repeating whatever you’ve done in the past. We are firm believers – and we demonstrate this with our couple clients over and over again – in your ability to come up with win-win solutions. The four tips above are part of the foundation for successful “trouble shooting” and resolution. Even in these mad corona times, where’s there so much extra stuff to disagree about, you can find solutions that work for “We”, not just for “me or you”.
Remember, the only way you get a real win-win is if you’re satisfied and your partner is satisfied. If you get your way, whether by persuasive reasoning, pouting, guilt tripping or good old-fashioned stubbornness, but your partner is happy, what do you have? You have something you want and an unhappy partner. That’s not really what you want, right?
If you want to improve your ability to get on the same page, here’s a great opportunity to practice:
We created a 90-min mini-workshop for couples to deal with stress and disagreements, How To Be More Understanding During Disagreements. In this workshop-from-your-couch, we are going to help you:
* Find understanding
* Relieve tension and stress
* Discover common ground between each other
* Get on the same page
* Learn techniques to de-escalate during conflict
* Get back to connection
We have helped thousands of couples navigate crisis and stressful times, and we’d be honored to help you, too.