People like to feel that they are “right”. How many times have you felt that your partner wasn’t listening, or just didn’t get your point of view. This feeling of not being heard, and you feeling that your partner is just wrong, is at the basis of so many power and control struggles in relationships and can be completely avoided by adhering to a few basic principles.
- When you watch a winning sports team, rarely is their success because of one player’s skill. The team works together, helping to build on each other’s strengths and to compensate for each other’s weaknesses. This team approach is often overlooked in relationships. A couple who is struggling with their competing needs, will abandon the idea of being on the same team, and instead try to prove themselves right, while proving their partner to be wrong. Of course, this does nothing but alienate the couple from each other and set up a hostile environment in which each of them needs to prove that their way is the correct way. Not winning anything. If instead, the couple can acknowledge these differences not as right or wrong, but as differences that need to be understood, respected and fairly negotiated without a value judgement placed on them, the couple now is no longer competing, but are working as team members towards a common goal- a happy, healthy, respectful, fulfilling relationship for both participants.
- As part of this idea of being on the same team, it is important to understand how a healthy relationship can be a tool for self-growth. Instead of looking at your partner’s differences as something that is threatening, understand that you hold the power to truly try to help your partner understand their resistance to change, to new circumstances, to old narratives that might not be working for them or you any longer. Listening to your partner’s fears, gaining insight into their intimate emotional world, instead of judging them, is a powerful way to help your partner understand what is behind seemingly impermeable positions.
The next time you and your partner get caught in the seemingly unavoidable power struggle over a repetitive issue, try to take a step back and do things differently. Instead of locking horns and trying to win the argument or the point, acknowledge that it appears that the two of you have very different opinions and perspectives on this subject. Show real curiosity into trying to understand your partners point of view, their inner experience, and get curious about what holding on to this point of view really means to them. By joining with them instead of combating against them, you may get a deeper understanding of what this issue really means to each of you as opposed to trying to be the most right!