When couples disagree, it can often come down to a question of whose needs matter more. If one person accommodates the other, the price is a loss of something he or she wanted. No matter how loving or generous a compromise (or a sacrifice) may feel, there is always the possibility of some resentment if in the process, you feel your partner has taken something from you. Or that for some reason, it seems as if his or her needs matter more than your own.
Relationship is the third entity in a Marriage
However, there is a third entity in every relationship, beyond the two individuals that comprise it, and that is the relationship itself. If you think about accommodation in terms of being in the service of the couple, rather than the other person, you can minimize any sense you may have of losing out, because if the relationship benefits, you benefit as well.
A relationship is an ongoing negotiation
Think of it this way. Marriage – in contrast to, for example, tennis – is not a zero-sum game. In that instance, one person’s gain is equal to the other’s loss. So there is only one winner, and for that one to win, the other must lose. Instead, a relationship is in many ways an ongoing negotiation, in which sometimes competing needs must each be accommodated to the extent possible. The problem couples often face begins when they approach disagreements by taking up defensive/offensive positions. It’s no wonder why they can’t reach a resolution that doesn’t feel like a defeat for one or even both of them.
But this can change, depending on how you view the negotiation. For example, in giving something up, start by noticing whether you feel open, generous, and appreciated, as opposed to constricted and resentful. Decide whether the issue at hand is a problem for the couple to solve, instead of the domain of one or the other. Sharing the burden of disagreement lightens the load.
Modify the energy between you and your partner
By focusing on the space between each of you, it becomes possible to see how the flow of information and feelings, creates its own reality. Each of you has tremendous power to affect that dynamic, not by changing your partner, but by modifying the energy between you.
On a practical level, think about incorporating the following:
- Practice saying “we” and “us” instead of “you” and “I.” Ask how “we” can solve a dispute.
- Get your partner’s perspective and see how it fits with your own. Share yours. The intersection of where your ideas overlap is the relationship perspective.
- Finally, don’t shy away from conflict. A conflict-free relationship is no guarantee of its longevity.