Friday, June 27, 2008

Why Your Spouse Won't Cooperate

Jane wants Paul to shampoo the carpets. She knows it is a tough job and that he has procrastinated. She decides to do several nice things for him to motivate him to clean the carpeting. She makes him his favorite pie, she suggests he relax and watch Thursday night football and she is more affectionate and loving in general. Paul recognizes that he is receiving more that his usual share of “goodies” from his wife. Then he realizes why. On Friday she reminds him of the carpet-cleaning chore he has been putting off. Paul is now faced with a decision.

How should he respond? He is unlikely to be motivated by his wife if he believes he does not owe her anything in return for the goodies she has offered him. For instance he may feel he is finally receiving his due amount of appreciation for what he has already contributed to the relationship. Or he may feel that he contributes plenty through his effort on the job and through other chores.

On the other hand, Paul is more likely to be motivated by his Jane’s efforts if she appears to be acting out a gesture of goodwill. If he sees his wife as being kind, then he is more likely to be motivated to reciprocate. The husband will see this as a gesture of goodwill if he experiences the positive things his wife has done as part of a bigger pattern of giving. He will be motivated if he believes that she will continue to give to him in the future. In other words, the husband is likely to be motivated to clean the carpet if he believes that his effort will result in further rewards in the future and not as an effort to manipulate him to do an unpleasant task.

When you were dating, you had confidence in receiving rewards from your partner. These rewards took many forms. It was a pleasure to receive a compliment, a certain touch, a look of admiration, or a willingness to go the extra mile just to spend time together. When you gave to your partner, you had faith that you would receive as much as you gave.

Do you have faith that there are numerous rewards to be had from nurturing a relationship with your spouse?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Negotiating a Relationship

Remember when you were dating your partner and you let your partner know how much you valued the relationship and that you wanted a future together? Why does this so often change after marriage? After committing to marriage, you "have" your partner but you must still negotiate what type of marriage you are going to have. This does not mean a general discussion regarding your values. Rather, you must negotiate everything from where the cereal is stored, to how you parent your children.

What causes these negotiations to become harsh and filled with tension compared to how easy it was to compromise when you were dating? You can have control or you can have relationship, but you can't have both. A spouse that values getting their way more than relationship will be able to be more harsh in negotiating than a spouse that places a priority on building closeness. The control-minded partner will have more power to define the marriage but, in the long run, will establish a dissatisfying marriage that does not reflect each's desires.

Negotiations that place a priority on relationship are characterized by mutual understanding and caring. If you put energy into listening to your partner's views, feelings, and desires, then it will be much easier to compromise your own desires. "My way" you will give in to "our way."

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Mission of this blog.

Many blogs set out to offer random thoughts about a variety of subjects. The mission of this blog is to offer information on relationships that can aid you in negotiating (I know this isn't a very romantic term) a mutually satisfying relationship. Also, I want to help you understand that relationships can survive periods when you or your partner becomes dissatisfied and uncertain of your commitment to the relationship.

This brings me to my initial offerring - what is a commitment to a relationship? Commitment is not measured in feelings. Rather, commitment is measured in willingness to work toward a mutually satisfying relationship. There is an argument to be made for many important elements of commitment, but I will highlight four. First is availability. Individual pursuits must be balanced with making your relationship a priority. Not only must you be physically present, but also emotionally available to your spouse. Men and women have different emotional needs at different times, but both need their mate to express emotions through words and actions.

The second element of commitment is a willingness to share yoursef. It is common to hold back important parts of yourself to others, but you feel closest to those whom you reveal the most. Your partner should know you best because you have been able to be open to him or her more than with anyone else. Think about those friends and family members to whom you have revealed your typically hidden self. Chances are that those relationships contained the third element of commitment, acceptance.

You feel accepted when your mate is able to understand your feelings, is able to "walk a mile in your moccasins" and resists judging you. Acceptance is not the same as agreeing with you, just that your partner makes the effort to understand you and values your right to your views, feelings and desires.

The final element is a shared responsibility for relationship problems. Couples typically come into my office with the hope that I will appreciate their suffering in their marriage and that I will convince their partner to change. This approach never leads to change, only a pattern of defensiveness. Couples must find mutual solutions to problems. The only solutions that work are ones in which each partner is able to see a role for themselves in bringing about change.

Take a moment to assess whether you offer these four elements to your partner and whether you, in turn, receive them. If not, take time to have discussions with your partner that focus on giving and receiving these elements. You will find that the relationship will become more enjoyable and that you will find each other more attractive.