Relationships are a significant part of all our lives in some way at different points in life. The quality of our relationships determine our happiness and well-being significantly. Decision making is an everyday occurrence in a partnership and can sometimes lead to sour patches leaving both partners affected negatively. This blog aims at taking you through the nuances of communication, developing a common ground of regard for your partner and ensuring smartly monitored selflessness while making choices. Read on to know how simple effective decision making can be!“Continental or Chinese? White curtains or blue curtains? Italy or France? Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings?”
Decision making is a significant part of an individual’s life and even more when you’re a couple. The accommodation of two individuals in one unit to be able to progress through everyday on mutual grounds may as well be called “recipe for disaster”. We’ve all been there, your partner wants to pick out gaudy china for the dinner next week and you can’t stop dreaming about the ridicule coming your way over a few plates and knives. And yet, you don’t want to dismiss his choices because, what makes a good relationship stick? Love and Respect. Damn them!
Google “top 10 things that couples fight about” and you’ll find decision making on every list. Reaching a middle ground is a huge challenge for most couples and can be a strong enough obstacle to reach breaking point. Our individualities and personalities have a way of guiding us in a way that almost always ensures a disagreement. Things spiral further down because of these three lads as well- insensitivity, irrelevance and irrationality. Add tone of voice, judgement, dismissal to the mix and your argument progresses from “this or that” to what she said on 12th February at 6.06 am. In this blog we’re exploring the process of disagreement, it’s whys and hows and an alternate way to deal with your partner in the decision making process.
What we say vs What we mean = Process Vs Content
On observation by behaviourists, it was found that most decisions are made focusing merely on the outcome of them and not so much the process of them. You and I usually fixate on an individual motive or want and end up steam rolling over our partner’s need in the bargain. Couple’s therapists emphasize of two very important pillars of communication: Process and Content.
Did you ask your better (read: bitter) half if you could hang out with the guys on a day she was in a particularly bad mood? Did you then actually believe her overly convincing positivity as she’s let out a yes through her gritted teeth? Congratulations! You just completely screwed up content because of process.
You’re in for a superbly curated session of emotions, drama and tears. YUM.
Process refers to how something was said to you, case in point- when she said yes a little too convincingly.
Content refers to what actually was conveyed to you- That she doesn’t want to say no, but she would really like you to stay, but she doesn’t want to ask for it.
We all do this. Saying one thing, meaning another and implying something totally different and often, it goes amiss from our own understanding. To think that simple, straightforward communication could help avoid this mess!
It can be incredibly overwhelming sometimes to decide on something that will/ may affect both of you, for fear of the superb curation mentioned above. We often end up suppressing our needs just to avoid the disagreement and obviously end up perennially frustrated. This leads to a collective sense of indifference towards your partner over time because there is a need for gratitude from them. We imagine that they should already know what keeping quiet has cost you and display eons of gratitude, bearing a “yes of course” every time you asked for something, even if it was for a unicorn!
Your partner stands puzzled at your sense of entitlement and feels belittled and dismissed and both of you are as far away from reality and each other as possible in that moment, and this is exactly what we want to avoid.
The Harry to your Sejal – A match like no other!
There is no “I” in a team. As rightly said as that is, a relationship requires a carefully brewed mix of selflessness with a boundary at a really, really high threshold, for the sake of self preservation. Making this potent mix in your backyard is hazardous and can lead to blowing up the entire house. Without it, you forever remain at bipolar ends. The dilemma!
It is important to take your partners needs/ choices/ tastes in account. It is also important to provide yourself with the same regard. What serves as parameter in this is the significance of the situation.
How important or not is this particular decision in the long run, how much it affects either of you or both and what can the consequences lead to permanently or impermanently. Would it affect you to let her choose the holiday destination even if you guys have a great time? Would choosing gaudy china for one dinner trump over dissing him about his taste? The impact of our decisions and the messages we send out in these conversations make up the essence of process and content.
When you said “Sure honey” to that 12-piece porcelain set, you conveyed trust and accommodation without even realizing it. You let him feel like there is space for him, his choices, his likes/ dislikes in this unit. When you booked tickets to her preferred destination over yours, you conveyed that her company was more important than the place. Reassurance is what we all seek at most points. Reassurance of our importance, our worth.
It is equally important that both individuals take the stance of regard in decision making. When one person is focused on the other and the other is focused on themselves, one person gets left out and discarded. If both of you can assure each other, by acting out in action and speaking in word that you are taking care of each other and the other person’s needs are significant in your mind, then you are taking the stance of regard. Making your partner feel like you have regard for them requires both- communicating the wish to be mindful of them and then backing up the claim by being sensitive about their feelings and needs in situations. While considering the larger impact of the decision on your lives and the ones around you, forgetting to spare a thought to your partner can end up hurting them. This hurt more often than not gets projected as anger and you in turn respond the anger, with, well anger. It’s a no win situation for either of you.
Decision Making 101.
Now that we are on the page of regard for each other, some other stuff that might also help and equip both of you while making choices:
Clarify the problem
This can avoid a lot of misunderstanding about the action in future.
We’re all only too aware of how a small sour patch about who left the lights on while you were away can end at how your mother is an absolute pain in this relationship’s ass! While both of us have our lids flying off in rage, we’ve forgotten the reason this began a little too easily. Fights also have a way of becoming a sturdy channel for the outlet of regularly suppressed thoughts and feelings. If you didn’t make a big deal about the wet towel he left on the bed on 20th May 2017 after his morning shower, what do you do with that undying rage? Use it to prove a completely parallel point of course!
This is a common occurrence as we’ve all seen, but is also a result of not investing into the disagreements and moments of anger. A fight has so much more in it other than just the startup issue. It’s important to ensure that both of you aren’t constantly going off track , taking jibes at each other because then it’s become about winning and not about the issue that probably is important to one/ both of you. Clarifying with each other, what caused the distress, what would the other person like to do about the issue and your own concerns based off of this particular cause of distress ensures that you both focus on each other’s present need and emotions.
2. List pro and con every step of the way.
We all have irrationality in us. Sometimes driven by ego, sometimes by fears and sometimes for no reason at all. However, being aware of how feasible a particular choice is, is a far more sensible stance to take than to analyse who gets the last word each time. Feeling stamped out by your partner isn’t a pleasant feeling, but it’s important to realise that being stubborn about a sensible suggestion from you SO just because he usually has the last say more often than not, isn’t going to help either of you. The issue just gets left with loose ends for you guys to stumble on another day. Communication would be key. While solving an issue it’s imperative to keep in mind that the best solution is result of solid communication and minimal ego. Tampering with either of these two can result in a dead end. However silly a thought is in your head, voicing it may help your partner provide shape to your stance, understand it better and consequently accommodate your personality better into the relationship. Sometimes it’s a lot of effort to sit down with a pen and paper and scribble away your distress in the form of pro and con. It’s an understandable situation and can easily be handled if you both take on this stance even mentally, the paper pro and con list is just to make a very significant impact but as long as you can adjust your perspective to reflect this, you’re good to go!
3. Solution making based on the 1 and 2. Multi-faceted solution if you need.
Leaping to either one of the three without doing them all will lead to a gap in the process as you might have deduced. Your stance was taken care of, we decided on regard for each other. Your POA in step 1,2,3 is initiating an action plan in itself. At the end of this, you’ve not only solved the pending decision at hand, you’ve also managed to tuck your partner into the warm, cozy comfort that a well balanced relationship brings along with it.
Waltz away with the three step process after arriving at regard and you can dance through everyday with reassurance and love.
If you find yourself caught up in a mess of not being able to decide effectively in your relationship and experience it causing issues in your relationship, speak with our expert relationship counsellors anonymously at www.askmile.com.