Effective Ways to Reduce Conflict While You Stay at Home with Your Loved Ones: Part Three
After a year of Netflix and Zoom, many of us are tired of staying home and we’re ready to bust loose.
Whether you live in an area that has reopened completely or in part, restrictions are beginning to relax and you are probably getting out of the house more than you did this past year. And if you live in North America, better weather is probably making it both more tempting and more feasible to experience a little taste of freedom.
But if you live with someone else, there’s a good chance that the pandemic took a toll on your connection. In fact, for many couples, sheltering in place this past twelve months surfaced more than a few issues in their relationship.
It won’t serve you or your partner to ignore those problems. Instead, it’s a good idea to add a few new tools to your relationship toolbox! If that interests you, read on! Or, you can just skip to the video at the bottom of this article for the abbreviated version.
This is Part Three of a four part series. In Part One I showed you How to Take Timeouts that Really Work. In Part Two I shared a fun game that helps you Increase Empathy for Yourself and Your Loved Ones.
In this installment, I show you How to Assert Boundaries that Create More Connection. I call it my Exquisite Partnership Formula™ and it really helps the couples I coach to move past major blocks in their connection.
I like to think of it as five simple steps to navigate potential conflict with clarity and compassion while standing in your truth. May it be the game-changer for you that it has been for so many of my clients.
The Five Steps to Exquisite Partnership™
1. Validate or Identify with Your Partner
2. Appreciate Your Partner
3. Assert Your Healthy Boundaries
4. Redirect Your Partner
5. Invite Partnership
- Validate or Identify with Your Partner
If your partner expresses a desire, perception or emotion that you find challenging, remember that they are probably feeling very vulnerable in that moment. They might be asking for something that’s scary for them. Show understanding by saying affirming things such as:
I can totally understand…
I get it…
I have felt similarly before . . .
Do not disconnect with your partner. It is important that you validate you partner’s desires without necessarily agreeing with them.
Put yourself in your partner’s experience. You want to make sure you do not contribute to these negative emotions:
Not feeling seen or heard.
Not feeling like what’s alive for them is important to you.
Validate your partner by highlighting that other people have similar desires and feelings, even if you don’t share those desires, perceptions or feelings.
Remember your partner needs TLC because they just made themselves vulnerable by sharing what is real for them with you!
Appreciate 5X more than you criticize. This benefits your partner and it also benefits you by shifting your outlook to one where your proverbial glass is half full. Often, those annoying traits in your partner are gifts that are bringing something you need into your life.
Expressing gratitude helps you remember that and it also invites more of what you want because the things you’re grateful for multiply. Life becomes more about the things you appreciate.
And it certainly makes both you and your partner more curious and cooperative. Appreciation creates fertile ground for possibility and hope.
When you are getting ready to say no to your partner, be sure to appreciate the fact that they want to share whatever they have suggested with you. Stay aware of the fact that the requests your partner makes to you are a signal that they want connection with you! By bringing their feelings and desires to you, your partner is trying to connect with you. Express appreciation for that.
This is really a “No” with your walls down. Assert your boundaries so you can make an invitation. When you say “No” here, it allows you to say YES to something else.
Assertion is not an isolation tool. It’s a tool for intimacy. There is a profound difference between a wall and a boundary. Walls prevent communication and connection.
Boundaries are a necessary feature of every healthy relationship. Boundaries create emotional safety that invites heart centered connection and intimacy.
It’s crucial to assert without needing to control or trying to convince your partner that you’re right. Simply claim what is true for you without in any way denigrating what is true for them.
As soon as you have asserted your no, move immediately to this step! Help your partner and yourself and your relationship by taking the lead and suggesting something else.
At this stage, you are shifting your “No” to their suggestion to a “Yes” to something else. This is your opportunity to express one of your desires by proposing something different.
Never use guilt, shame or buried resentments to manipulate your partner into agreeing to your suggestions. Do not be patronizing or parental. Instead be partnered!
Don’t try to sell your idea. Instead, share your joy. Make it about how much you would love to share this with them.
Stress that their idea isn’t bad, it just doesn’t work for you. Then introduce your suggestion with something like this: “Here’s something that’s really exciting for me. Do you think you would enjoy doing this with me?”
Your partner has every right to say they don’t like your idea either. And if that happens, move to step five!
When your suggestion doesn’t appeal to your partner either, you both might be tempted to assume the situation is unresolvable.
Most of us have been conditioned to think in polarized terms that cause us to assume that our disagreements mean we have no common ground. Nothing could be further from the truth!
This is the place where partnership can truly shine! This is when both of you can join together to co-create a third alternative!
You can take the lead and invite that Exquisite Partnership.
Assure your partner by saying something like: “I’m sure there are things we do want to share. Let’s figure something out together.”
If this is difficult for you and you feel all is lost, remind yourself that you chose your partner for reasons that are important to you. Allow faith in your decision to be with your partner to translate into confidence and excitement. Trust that whatever the two of you come up with is going to delight both of you much more than if you had settled and just agreed to less than what you both desire.
Begin by asking these questions together:
How can we both get something better than what either of us proposed?
How can we get excited about our conflicting views and weave them together?
How can I show up even more fully? Where can I expand?
Don’t give up because you both said no to each other’s ideas. Come to the discussion with your combined strengths and weaknesses. This can be a fun thing. And this can also be very triggering for most of us because we have grown up believing that life is a win/lose proposition.
Don’t believe it!
When you’re triggered, you can’t see the third alternative. So be gentle with yourself and each other and take your time.
Exquisite Partnership means co-creating a better solution than you could without a partner. Remember a relationship has three aspects — you, the other person, and who you are together
And please do NOT rush this process. Many couples avoid their own feelings and the feelings of their partner in a rush to “solve” their issues. That’s skipping the entire engine of relationship. After all, relationships are based upon relating!
Finally, when you feel yourself digging in to insist that your way is best, ask yourself — what’s the price you’re going to pay for being right? Competing to be right has no place in your home or your bedroom. But an Exquisite Partnership can take you places you have only dreamed of!