When my husband and I were engaged to be married (42 years ago this month!), we were required by our church to have several sessions of premarital counseling. The pastor who counseled us was an older, single man. He asked us how we handled conflict. I answered, "That's easy! We fight and fight and fight and then I cry and he gives in!" I was dead serious. The pastor suggested that perhaps we weren't ready to get married and should put off our decision until we had worked out better ways to solve our conflicts.
Being all-wise at the age of 21, we were quite sure that this pastor, having never been married, couldn't possibly know what was best for us and had no right to tell us we weren't ready for marriage. Besides, our method was working quite nicely (for me at least), so we ignored his comments and proceeded to use this very method of conflict resolution for the next 6 or 8 years. I was the master of the long pout and could hold out for several days, if necessary, to get my way. My husband, himself a conflict avoider, wasn't happy with the outcome at times, but since his goal was to keep me happy at all costs, this method worked for him as well. We would kiss and make up and have great make-up sex!
A funny change happened about 8 or 10 years into our marriage however. At some point, my tears stopped moving my husband to give in, and we gradually realized that our methods weren't getting either of us any satisfaction. We began the long process of learning to fight fairly, learning to negotiate, learning to look at the possibility that we might both have a valid point in any given situation. Many methods, books, counselors, retreats, friends helped us along the way. I plan to bring some of those ideas to you in later posts, but today I want to talk about how my own world view changed.
We establish our world view in our family of origin (the family we grew up in) and usually don't realize that we are acting out of that world view. My world view was that the most important thing about an argument was being "right." If I wasn't "right" then my whole belief system began to crumble around me. I needed to be "right" to prove that I was a loveable, "okay" human being. If I was "wrong," then there must be something fatally flawed about me. Many of us suffer from this black and white thinking.
One of the most important changes you can make in your relationship is to begin to accept the fact that your partner's position on a given subject has equal validity to your own and that there is a possibility that you are both "right." For example, you might assert that the "way" to get to the grocery store is by taking certain streets, making sure that all of your turns are left turns. Your partner, however, may choose a route that goes past some familiar landmark and assert that this is the correct route. Is there a "right" way to get to the grocery store? Obviously, this is a simple example, and many far-more-complex examples abound in any relationship. What is the "right" way to discipline your child? Or the "right" way to clean the kitchen? Or the "right" way to celebrate a holiday? Or the "right" way to spend or save your money?
When I began to accept that both my husband and I had valid points in a disagreement, our relationship began to grow. I began to understand that we could both hold different ideas at the same time and both be "right." I began to look at the world as a place where not only black and white exists, but many colors and shades in between.
Think of some areas where you might be willing to consider your partner's point of view and begin to change the way you see the world!