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When one partner becomes very committed to a specific path for his or her child and is deeply convinced that "we should do this, this, and this," and if the other partner is not in agreement, it can create huge tension.
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Family walking together in park
Family walking together in park

John Gray with Anat Baniel: Tip 4: Making Decisions When You and Your Partner Disagree

In my practice, I often witness the situation where one parent wants different interventions for their child with special needs than the other parent. Deciding where to invest the finite resources of time, commitment, and finances towards helping your child have the best possible future is of incredible importance. When there is disagreement between the parents, it can create great distress and compromise your relationship. I asked John Gray what partners can do when this happens and how to protect their relationship.

Here is what he said: When your child has special needs, you have to look to different resources that may help your special child. The regular playground, preschool, etc. may not be enough and might not work at all for your child. In addition to this, many parents find that the traditional interventions are not sufficient in helping their child. The question that parents always ask is: "What should we do?"

Often, one partner or the other will read lots of books. Relatives and friends make suggestions and give advice. The Internet has endless offerings. There's so much information that you, the parent, need to become an expert in your child's condition, even if it is completely out of your area of expertise. If you are feeling powerless, this could lead you to feel even more lost and confused and wonder what do we do?

What Will Be Best for Your Child?
When one partner becomes very committed to a specific path for his or her child and is deeply convinced that "we should do this, this, and this," and if the other partner is not in agreement, it can create huge tension.

The greatest gift you can give to your child, the greatest gift, is when mom and dad are getting along. Put this as a top priority.

Remember that sooner or later, a decision will be made, and unless that decision involves irreversible actions such as surgery, if the path chosen doesn't seem to be working well enough, then you can change that path.

1. Make a List
In the meanwhile, as you are in the process of communicating with your partner, or even before you sit down to have a conversation, make a list of what you think is best for your child. Ask your partner to do the same. Be thoughtful, know as you make this list that some things are likely to shift as each of you learn more about your partner's thinking, feelings, and reasoning.

2. Ask Lots of Questions
Plan to have the conversation when you have plenty of time to discuss your thoughts and desires as to what you think you should do for your child. One of you takes the first turn.

Refrain the best you can from being critical or judgmental of your partner's thoughts and desires. When you find that you are, apologize and reassure your partner that you don't mean to be critical or judgmental. You are simply passionate about what you believe is the right thing to do for your child. Then, ask your partner lots of questions as to why they think and feel what they do. The more each of you knows about the thinking process and feelings of the other, the easier it will be to discover a path that best serves your child's needs and interests.

3. Be Inclusive
Give your partner the benefit of the doubt. Be inclusive of him or her. Realize that one of the reasons that couples get divorced is because one of the partners feels dismissed, as if what they have to say and what they do is not good enough or simply doesn't count. And, once the divorce happens, it's too late.

Protect yourself from additional tension and suffering, and even divorce, by recognizing that staying together, loving each other, being kind to each other, trying to be aware of when you've been critical and correcting path, are the most valuable and empowering ways to be for each other and for your child's well-being and future.

4. Reboot the Conversation
When you find yourself being critical, dismissive, defensive, angry, or upset during decision making (and you will from time to time), catch yourself, back off, and say:

"I was just being critical of you. I'm so sorry. It's not what I want to do. Let's reboot the conversation."

Then come back to what you are trying to communicate. Just do it the way described above, and remember to use our previous tips: Communication and Managing Stress, Taking Time Outs, and Recognizing Defensiveness.

WATCH: Making Decisions When You and Your Partner Disagree
Tip #4 From John Gray

Let us know how it goes and watch for our next video blog Tip #5 With John Gray: How to Remain Together.

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