If you’re like many people, when you think you are right and your partner is wrong - you may not actually say the words, ‘You’re wrong!” - but your gestures and tone of voice may be clear as day. How might you handle this differently? Why would you want to?
Have you ever heard the saying, ‘Do you want to be right or do you want to be married?’ There is a lot of wisdom in this saying. The more you think your partner is wrong, the more you tell your partner they’re wrong or use related gestures or tone of voice, the more you damage your relationship and decrease the chances of connection, respect, trust and intimacy. Doesn’t sound so good, does it?
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One of the most important things to do to help keep a healthy relationship is to ‘turn toward’ your partner, especially when you don’t want to. What does ‘turn toward’ mean?
Think now to a time when you were sure you were right and your partner was not. Did you turn towards your partner? Were you open to where they were coming from or curious about what was important to them? Or…did you have your feet firmly planted in a bit of self-righteousness? Did you feel your blood churning, your defenses rising and a deep desire to ‘prove’ that you were right and they were wrong?
I’m not sure where in ‘the’ relationship manual it is written “be sure you always prove you are right!” I don’t think that’s recommended anywhere. So where do we learn it?
Have you ever watched two people (your parents, friends’ parents, a couple you know, or even a couple you don’t know) get into a disagreement? What happens? Often, no matter who it is, there are similarities that sound something like this:
1. A choice comes up or a decision needs to be made
2. Person A has an idea (thinks his/her way is the right way)
3. Person B has an idea (thinks his/her way is the right way)
4. Person A shares their idea
5. Person B disagrees and shares their idea
6. Person A disagrees and more strongly shares their idea and starts giving reasons why they are right
7. Person B disagrees and more strongly shares their idea and starts giving reasons why they are right
8. Voices get louder and the tone changes
9. The energy of each person is ‘turning away’ from each other
10. From this point, a variety of things might happen, such as:
a) Anger escalates and shouting with the same opinions (with maybe a slight variety) goes back and forth or
b) One person walks away or
c) One person gives in or
Silence happens and nobody gives in and nothing positively productive happens
Can you feel in your body what it feels like (even just reading this) to have this type of dialogue in a relationship? You may have experienced this feeling before.
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There will be disagreements in every relationship; interactions like this hurt relationships. If you are interested in learning how to ‘turn toward’ (re: nurture your relationship) during a disagreement, then keep reading.
You probably recognize that that above-mentioned ways of dealing with disagreements is very common in our society and you know that it is not helping to nurture your relationship/s.