Is Decision Making a Problem in Your Relationship?
Do you and your partner have trouble making decisions, finding compromise, or problem solving issues? Communicating effectively so both partners feel heard and are satisfied with the result is no easy task! Finding a compromise between two different people can be hard to do—especially if it’s about a topic that touches on hidden emotions. If you’re in this situation, it is likely difficult for you and your partner to agree on a middle ground. Or if you can find a compromise, maybe you have trouble putting your plan into action. Couples struggling with decision making tend to experience one of two common cycles: Finding the middle ground, and all talk no walk.
Finding The Middle Ground
My partner wants one thing. I want the opposite. Where do we even begin? Many couples struggle to compromise when trying to solve difficult issues. You may argue about which one of you should compromise, or where compromise even starts. Sometimes, it can be hard to balance the needs and desires of each person, and each person is unwilling to give up what is important to him/her. When that happens, it may create fights in the relationship.
1. FAIR IN THE LONG RUN MAY NOT BE FAIR IN THE SHORT RUN
Sometimes it’s really hard to find a compromise that feels fair – either because there is no middle ground (it’s a Yes or No decision) or because you both feel really strongly about the issue. If that’s the case, consider letting one person “win” this time with the agreement that the other person will “win” the next time you have a situation where the two of you can’t find a compromise. For you basketball fans out there, this is the “possession arrow” idea – when there is a tie-up and both teams have equal claim to the ball, they take turns getting the ball. Ideally, the two of you don’t keep rigid score but instead have a general sense about who has sacrificed more recently for the good of the relationship.
2. FOCUS ON SELF CHANGE
Remember that you and your partner are working together as a team. So, be sure to consider ways you can improve or prevent the pattern by changing the way you act before and during a discussion of the core issue. After all, you and your partner are both at least partially responsible for the issues you two have, and some problems may have started with something either of you did (or didn’t do). At the end of the day, being in a relationship means sometimes putting the “we” ahead of the “I” in order to make a relationship work.
3. BRAINSTORM FREELY & CONDUCT EXPERIMENTS
Know that when you’re brainstorming ways to compromise, no idea is stupid. Then, when you’ve developed a few ideas, put one of them to the test. Try an idea out for a short period of time, knowing you’ll re-evaluate it soon at a later date. Be sure to hold back any judgment of yourself or your partner during this process.
All Talk Not Walk
It’s great when you and your partner agree to a compromise, but it can be frustrating when it feels like no actions or changes result from it.
The Partner Trying to Change
“Why am I the only one working on this? Didn’t we both agree to change?” Sometimes, you might get really frustrated with your partner for not following through on what you talked about. You feel that you are holding up your end of the bargain and he/she is letting you down again.Tips to change these situations:
1. FRUSTRATION GETS IN THE WAY
When you realize that you’re not yet making the progress you expected, or when you think your partner isn’t trying, it can be really frustrating. When we’re really upset, angry, or stressed, we tend to get defensive or lash out at our partners – despite our best intentions. When this happens, don’t expect yourself or your partner to be able to make the changes you’ve been talking about. Instead, take a break, call a time out, and come back to it when you’re feeling better.
2. WHY IS THIS SO HARD FOR MY PARTNER?
If the change is harder or more complicated than your partner expects, try to remember that your partner gave the change a try but the plan the two of you worked out didn’t work. In other words, try not to get upset, angry, or frustrated with your partner. Instead, this can be a good time to modify the initial solutions you came up with. It’s not unusual to have to try a few different solutions before finding one that works. In fact, we’ve even built this into the OurRelationship program! In the optional Strengthen phase, you’ll have a chance to re-evaluate how the changes you decided on in the Respond phase are going and make changes to those plans.
3. MY PARTNER KEEPS FALLING INTO OUR OLD PATTERN
If you realize that the problem is happening but your partner doesn’t, use a non-blaming label to describe what’s going on. Sometimes a simple “I think we’re getting into it again” can be enough to allow you both to shift gears, consider your DEEP understanding, and apply any relevant changes your partner agreed to. And the more often you label the problem when it occurs, the easier it will become for your partner to recognize the problem when it comes up
4. WORK TOGETHER AS A TEAM
Remember that you’re working together as a team to make things better. Sometimes you’re not going to do a great job. And sometimes your partner isn’t going to do a good job. But, if you notice your partner having trouble with the change, try to help them out. Helping each other rather than attacking each other is going to go a long way in improving your relationship.
The Other Partner
“I’m doing my best to follow through on our agreement! But it’s hard to change.”
When you and your partner make a compromise to try things differently, it can be hard to remember to actually do it. Sometimes, what seemed like a good idea turns out to not work so well.Tips to change these situations:
1. UNDERSTAND THE BARRIERS TO CHANGE
Even when we decide to take the risk to change and give it our best shot, there are always things that get in our way. When you start trying out the change, it may just feel “weird” or awkward for a while. This tends to be most common when you’re trying to do more positives (instead of fewer negatives). Let your partner know if you’re feeling stuck, and try to brainstorm ways to navigate around each barrier.
2. CHANGE IS HARDER THAN EXPECTED
Despite our best efforts, sometimes the solutions we come up with aren’t working like we hoped. We’re doing our best to change but either those changes aren’t really solving the problem or the changes are just too difficult to do for a long period of time. This can be a good time to re-evaluate the initial solutions you came up with, and develop new solutions that may get at the heart of the problem or be easier to enact. Talk to your partner and find a time to talk about this – ignoring the fact that you’re not following through on your initial agreements is only going to make it worse!
3. IT’S HARD TO RECOGNIZE WHEN THE PROBLEM IS HAPPENING
If identifying the problem in the moment is going to be a problem for you, talk to your partner about your concerns. Your partner may be able to help you by saying something like “I think we’re getting into it again.” Something that simple can be enough to let you take a step back and let your DEEP understanding and change plan kick in. And the more often you label the problem when it occurs, the easier it becomes for you to recognize the problem when it comes up.
4. WORK TOGETHER AS A TEAM
Remember that you’re working together as a team to make things better. Sometimes you’re not going to do a great job. And sometimes your partner isn’t going to do a good job. But, if you notice you’re having trouble with the change, try to talk it out with your partner. If you need help getting the conversation going, try using the Speaker Listener or Problem Solving conversation structures in the program!
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