Thursday, August 29, 2013

Rational Versus Irrational Jealousy

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Is jealousy ever irrational? My sense is that most jealousy is a signal about your relationship with your partner. Granted there may not be a specific person that is endangering your connection, but your tension is an alarm signaling growing emotional and physical distance.

Even when you have solid reasons to be concerned about your partner’s relationship with another person, you can appear irrational by how you express your pain. Whether you are responding to an inner discomfort or you have observed inappropriate behaviors, you must choose how to express your pain.

Pain does not entitle you to lash out toward your partner. It is common to choose anger because you feel stronger, but lashing out will surely trigger a fight or flight response when you need understanding and comfort.

Jealousy typically triggers one to talk about your partner rather than yourself.

“You were flirting with that waitress.”

“Why did she text that message to you?”

“Do you have to go to lunch with him?”

When you talk about your partner, this also triggers a defensive response. The only way to avoid your partner becoming defensive is to describe your pain that has been triggered by your partner’s behavior.

“I feel pushed aside when you give attention to the waitress instead of to me. I want this to feel like a date and you are courting my attention.”

“I feel afraid when I read your texts that seem too familiar. I want to feel protected from other women who are seeking your attention.”

“I’m conflicted. I don’t want to interfere with your career but I am uncomfortable with your coworker always inviting you to lunch to discuss business.”

I hope that you won’t overanalyze these examples because my choice of words are not what’s important. Just note that in each case the difference is talking about the partner versus challenging the significant other to respond to pain.

Now I understand that your may still discount your feelings and become defensive, even if you share your pain. By taking the second route and by talking in a vulnerable tone of voice you are more likely to encourage your partner to protect your heart.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Five Ways to Get What You Want in Your Relationship: Act Like a Professional Negotiator

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I was reading the Big Think blog post on How to Negotiate Like a Pro and recognized how the same five elements needed in a business negotiation also apply to negotiating what you want from your relationship.

  1. Appreciation. Do you and your partner express appreciation for each other? OK you know that in some ways you are a pain to live with, but you want your partner to see the value you offer despite your limitations. Perhaps you know what your partner contributes to your life, but do you let your partner know of his or her value to you?
  2. Autonomy. Do you try to impose your will on your partner or recognize that your partner must choose to offer you what you want? Early in the relationship you gave and received abundantly, but as the relationship went on you found that you received less. How did you interpret this? It is important to let your partner know what you want, but to ask your partner to care about your needs and wants. The tendency is to tell your partner what to do rather than what you want. We resist when we are told what to do.
  3. Affiliation. It is important to maintain a focus on the emotional connection in your relationship. Are you making an effort to maintain a warm, caring relationship or has the relationship become cold? If you feel that you are just performing tasks with a roommate, then you have lost affiliation. Rather than asking for what you want, start a conversation about the lack of warmth you feel in the relationship.
  4. Status. Do you and your partner share the ability to define your relationship? As you look at your relationship, does it reflect each of your desires or has one partner successfully negotiated for the relationship he or she desires over the wishes of the other? If so, this “win” will end up being a loss of intimacy in the relationship.
  5. Role. Are you willing to examine your approach to negotiating? Do you the pursue change? Do you sulk to make an impression on your partner? Do you act as though you have little investment in the relationship? Successful negotiations require flexibility. If what you are doing is not working find a different approach. Perhaps you need to consult with a marriage counselor to improve your ability to get what you want from your relationship.