THE BLOG
11/01/2013 03:25 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Put the Toilet Seat Down! How Many Times Do I Have to Tell You?

Sound familiar? Many couples are challenged with these little irritants that just don't seem to go away. It ranges from the toilet seat to taking out the garbage, washing the dishes or taking care of the piles of clothes. These petite issues are endless.

I often say, "It's not the issue that's the issue. It's how you deal with the issue. That's the issue."

How can you get your partner to do what you want, in a way that creates loving and intimacy? That's the question I ask. Unfortunately, the way most couples deal with these little issues often creates resentment, hurt feelings and eventually separation. They find themselves fighting by saying mean and hurtful things to each other. The love, joy and excitement that brought them together slowly fades away.

Let's first look at the concept of "intention vs. method." Our intention is the final result that we are looking for. What do we really want? What is the most important thing? Do I want a clean house or do I want a loving house? Do I want the toilet seat down or do I want a hug and a kiss? Do I want that pile of clothes off the floor or do I want to share a sunset? What do I truly want? This seems real simple and obvious, however, it is often the biggest challenge. We must first know what we want and where we are going in order to get there. That's step number one -- and it helps to know if your partner wants the same thing. If everyone wants the same thing, then we can move on to the method part, but if we are not in agreement, then we must spend time exploring what we want as an end result.

That's great, you might say, "But, I want that toilet seat down and I want a hug and a kiss. How do I do that? I want my cake and I also want to eat it!"

Yes, that's what most of us want. And, I want to suggest that there's a way that we can usually get our partner to do the petite things we want so we can and experience loving and joy. But you're a little ahead of me. So, let's go back to "intention vs. method."

Let's assume we are in agreement with the end result. And, let's say the end result we want is the toilet seat down and hugs and kisses. This is where we explore the "method" part of the equation. It's here where the fight often begins. "My way is better than your way!" "This is the way I was taught by my mom/dad, and it's the way it's supposed to be! It's the right way! And, do it now, because I don't have time to wait for you. And I don't want to remind you. You're an adult. You should know better!"

Can you hear the fight beginning? Can you hear the position of rightness? There's a parent-child relationship developing with a top dog/bottom dog battle about to begin. If our intention is to create fear and separation, then this would be a good way of creating it. If, however, our intention is to create loving and joy, then insulting your partner and holding a position of rightness is probably not the most effect method of getting the task completed.

I have discovered there are many "methods" to completing any task. Some methods are faster, more efficient; some are more playful; some are more expensive; some are totally illogical from my perspective; some are redundant; and some are just plain silly. Which method is the most effective? It really depends on my/your intention.

Let's assume we want to keep loving, joy and intimacy in the relationship and we want our partner to change their behavior so our little petite issues can be resolved.

The most effective method I have found to fulfill this intention requires us to do a few things. We must first let our partner know the end result we are looking for. It's not enough to tell them what we don't want. It's important to let them know what we do want. "I want you to always put the toilet seat down after you go to the bathroom." Then we catch them approximating the end result. If they put the toilet seat down we reward our partner with lots of love and approval. We touch him/her and let them know how wonderful we feel that they actually followed through with our request. We are not looking for perfection here. We don't yell at them if they forget the next 20 times. We might remind them how important it is to put the seat down. We might go through some explanation, so they understand our illogical request. My mom use to say, "Repetition teaches." "Yeah, but how many times do I have to tell them?" I'd ask. And she would reply, "As many times as it takes." From her point of view, reminding someone was just another opportunity to connect and share loving. Punishment is not an effective tool for creating change.

So the process goes on. You catch your partner putting that toilet seat down and you give them love and attention, and if they forget you lovingly remind them how wonderful life could be if they remembered to put that toilet seat down. You might say, "This takes too much energy and too much time. Why can't they just do it right the first time? That process just doesn't work. I tried it once and that toilet seat stayed up. It only stays down if I yell and make a big fuss." Yeah, I bet. And, I wonder how much laughter, joy and intimacy is going on in the home. I suspect not very much.

I often wonder where we're going. Why are we in so much of a rush? I know we all have to keep our schedule, and get to work on time and we all have too much "dodo" in our lives. Yer, is there a way that we can enjoy the process of getting there? Can we enjoy the process of getting our partner to change all those petite issues? Can we create loving along the way? I say, "yes."

My two favorite affirmations are: "Oh boy, more fun!" and "I love this!" No matter what's going on in my life, I challenge myself to say, "Oh boy, more fun" or "I love this!" Check it out and see how the world around you responds.

By the way, the resolution with the toilet seat is to put the seat and the lid down. Now everyone gets to learn a new habit, besides, according to Feng Shui this creates good chi energy.

For more by Robert C. Jameson, click here.

For more on conscious relationships, click here.