I used to think impasses in relationship were the beginning of some end. Someone wants kids and the other doesn’t, one person wants sex and the other could care less, someone wants to raise their kids Jewish and the other, Catholic. With strong disagreements like these, how does a couple come to peaceful resolution? Is separation the only option?
I once heard marriage defined as a mutual declaration: your concerns are as important as mine. I took that to mean that in marriage, I declare that I will not betray my concerns for my partner nor will I betray my partner's concerns for mine. In other words, it is my responsibility that BOTH of our needs, wants and desires are fulfilled. I must always be sure that my actions and decisions take care of both of us.
This makes sense when you think about it. If I get what I want and my partner doesn’t, then I don’t REALLY get what I want. Because getting what I want at the expense of my partner’s satisfaction and joy is not what I want either. I don’t want an unhappy spouse any more than I want to give up MY desire.
I also am a strong believer in the mirror theory of relationship, namely, that everything occurring in my relationship is reflecting something back to me about myself. So disagreements and impasses are opportunities for me to learn more about myself and my partner.
One way to do this, is to speak in "we" for a time about differing concerns. "We want children AND we do not want children." Or, "We want sex and sex is not a priority for us." By speaking in "we" like this, couples are able to join together for a moment, rather than continuing to maintain their adversarial positions. While speaking in "we", couples can also step into their partner's world for a moment, and own their partner's concern as their own. For example, if I don't want kids, I might say that some part of me does want to have children, just so I can explore what is true about that. I actually take on the opposing point of view as my own for a time and see what is there. Often, very powerful insights come from this kind of brave exploration.
If there is something like this showing up in my relationship, I actually believe that some part of me must want what I am saying overtly I don't want, because it is showing up in my space. Some part of me must be creating it for some reason. For example, some part of me must actually want a kid because I chose to be in relationship with someone who wants one. There are no accidents.
From here, partnership is really possible. Creativity and courage to look honestly at oneself, however, are required. But if both people dare to do this kind of reflective looking, deeper truths and desires emerge from which new answers become possible. Concerns are revealed, and couples can then together explore how to create some kind of win/win scenario where all concerns are taken care of, and the true definition of marriage can be played out.
Sonika Tinker, MSW, and Christian Pedersen, loving husband-wife team, are Relationship Experts, coaches, mediators, trainers and authors with over 40 years combined experience coaching and leading courses helping hundreds of singles and couples to dramatically improve relationships. Owners of LoveWorks, a cutting-edge relationship training company, both are passionately committed to shifting the current relationship paradigm from blame, resignation and scarcity to one of joyful, expansive, delightful co-creation. They offer a unique leading-edge relationship solution that is uplifting, light-hearted and powerfully effective. Loveworksforyou.com And feel free to check out their numerous free relationship events at loveworksforyou.com/free-events