Exploring how relationships work and thrive is not only my work but it's also as much a personal challenge for me as everyone else! Dwelling on the complexities of conflict, I recalled a conversation my partner and I had some time ago about our "discussions."
He summed up what we were dealing with brilliantly when he said, "Think of it as a combination of my way, your way and our way." This meant that as we spent more time together, and learned more about each other, we would find a shared space that was "our" way; that we would give up the need to always have it our own way.
Robert C Dodds, a writer, is quoted as saying, "The goal in marriage is not to think alike, but to think together." I thought the two statements combined to form a wonderful strategy for people to learn to live a) as a couple and b) as a couple in harmony.
Thinking like this is a way to learn how to share, connect and become a team. It doesn't mean we give up all our wants, needs and desires -- it just means we learn to live with another independent and free thinking individual. It's when two people learn how to progress from 'I' to 'we'; from what 'I want' to what 'we need.'
Seeking the balance between my way, your way and our way can be an interesting journey (flash talk for huge rows and major arguments!), in which we can explore our ability to forgive, to compromise, to be gracious and to be 'kind rather than right' as my friend Wayne Dyer would say.
We all tend to think that what we have learned is right; whereas what we have learned is just that - what we have learned. It may not be the 'truth'. And we all have our own truths in which we absolutely and firmly believe. So there are times when we have to think together and agree that our truths differ and then live with that.
All this can only come when a couple is committed to doing everything they can to stay together until one or the other doesn't want to stay, because it takes time and effort and patience and tolerance and kindness and loving and caring and the ability to give in to find 'our way.'
'Our way' is different for every couple and can become the basis for great intimacy. Someone gave me a clever interpretation of intimacy -- 'into me see.' Intimacy grows when we allow another to 'into me see'; we share ourselves with them and they us; we share secrets to which no one else has access; we understand each others dreams, hopes, fears, joys and loves, amongst other things. There are no secrets between us, no barriers, no deception, no hidden agendas.
An essential ingredient for this way of thinking is to know your own way! Have a clear sense of what is acceptable for you and what is absolutely unacceptable. Have the desire to learn what your partner is feeling is their way. And both of you give up the concept that we HAVE to do it MY way, which is the ONLY way.
Even if you try one way then the other and then discuss a possible 'our way,' only to find that YOUR way was the best after all, you will have fostered harmony in your relationship as you both think together, not independently seething at your partner's incredible stupidity, stubbornness and inability to see the logic, common sense and absolutely obvious rightness of YOUR way.
Of course, there may arise one (or a billion) situations where you find yourself unable to compromise; where what is proposed is absolutely unacceptable for you. This requires the BIG GUNS of conflict resolution! More than I have space to write.
But as a quick tip, If your commitment is to stay together happily as a couple, you might even find yourself begrudgingly respecting your partner's position and admire the fact you are not with a whimp; and be pleased you are with someone who clearly knows what they want and who loves you despite the fact you are different.
So get off your high horse; maybe YOUR way isn't the best way; maybe your partner's way is better!
Just remember, you're a couple because you want a life partner; someone to share your life with, not a puppet who becomes a clone of you!
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