Gaby and Henry have lived in the same apartment for five years. It is in a great location near Gaby's work, but with increasing rent, Henry feels that they are throwing their money away. Their lease is ending in a couple of months, and Henry wants to buy a house or condo. He wants to lock in a monthly payment and have an investment of their own.
Gaby does not want to leave their current neighborhood, and knows that if they buy something they can afford, they would have to move away from the area she loves. In addition, her daily commute to work would double and she would have to move to a not-so-nice neighborhood far away from her friends.
Gaby also dislikes the idea of being tied to a 30-year mortgage contract. Although she sees the value of investing in a property, she does not want the pressure of having a big financial commitment for such a long time.
Although they have discussed in detail each other's perspectives, they cannot reach an agreement.
Every time they talk about it, they both end up tense and feeling bitter. Henry insists that he only wants to do the right thing for both of them and gets very defensive when Gaby disagrees with him.
Gaby feels that Henry is not listening to her, and in order to avoid further conflict, Gaby is about to give in to Henry's desire to purchase a property--even if she doesn't feel happy about it.
When conflict arises, most couples do not know how to resolve it in a way that feels good to both parties. Usually couples do one of the following:
• One of them ends up sacrificing his or her own interests to end the conflict.
• One of them ends up becoming "The Boss" and giving the other an ultimatum of how things are going to be.
• Both engage in an endless power struggle; they fight to see who gets the upper hand and wins the battle.
• One or both partners withdraw and make decisions without considering their partner's needs or desires because they believe that their partner will not listen or will never agree or cooperate.
Unfortunately, all the above actions lead to toleration and resentment, the key ingredients that eventually extinguish the romantic spark in any relationship.
When partners "give in" or "give up" in order to avoid conflict, a variety of negative thoughts and emotions creep in, and slowly but surely kill their enthusiasm about their partner and their relationship.
So what can couples do to resolve conflicts in a way that feels good to both partners?
What can you do if you have a disagreement with your partner, and you feel that he is not listening to you?
To begin, you have to express yourself. You've got to let your partner know that you want both of you to feel happy with whatever solution you come to.
Remind him that you are on the same team trying to win the same game, and that although you are independent individuals, you also are a partnership and should always look after each other's interests and feelings.
If only one of you wins and the other one loses, you both lose--because the partnership loses.
Whenever each of you comes up with a solution to an issue, ask each other: "How do you feel about my solution?"
The solution will be found only when BOTH of you feel good about it.
If you think that this is hard to achieve, you are mistaken; it is possible. In fact, happy and successful couples become experts at resolving conflicts together almost as soon as they arise.
They know that it takes great communication, problem-solving skills, patience, and emotional intelligence from both parts, and they are willing to do the work.
If you believe that you communicate well with your partner, but you are not able to come up with solutions that make you both feel good, you have an opportunity for growth. It might be a good idea to get some coaching and learn how to have safe conversations with each other, especially when you are dealing with delicate topics.
Then, after having an effective and safe conversation with your partner (one where you both felt listened to and validated), you should be able to synergize.
To begin, you should both create a list of possible solutions to your issue, and then analyze each solution carefully and negotiate with each other until you find the one that you both feel works best.
Negotiating a solution to a problem is like journeying into an uncharted territory. The road to reaching a solution may be bumpy at first, but if you are successful at resolving conflicts in your relationship, you will not only reach the desired destination, but also strengthen your relationship and feel more connected and in love with your partner.