The lion vs. the lamb

Much like my psycho ex-girlfriend, a married man will often describe his wife in unflattering terms.  He’ll tell you that she doesn’t understand him, they’ve grown apart, she nags him constantly, etc., etc., etc.  Now I won’t say that his wife is perfect because I don’t know her (and neither do you!), but he saw enough in her at some point to commit to spending the rest of his life with her.

At the same time, he’ll be telling you everything you want to hear.  You’re so sweet, uncomplicated, you “get him“.  Please remember that he’s saying anything that he has to in order to get into your panties.  He has nothing to lose at this point – even if you turn him down, he’s still going home to his wife!  This power play also occurs when you argue with your married lover, again, he has nothing to lose.

Do not allow a man to put you into competition with his wife (or with any other woman for that matter).  The moment he tries to set up that dynamic, refuse to accept it.  Human interactions are far more complex than the oversimplification that he’s trying to hand you.  You are neither the lion nor the lamb…..but neither is she.

I’ll show you crazy

You may be tempted to confront your partner if you’ve seen something in the past two weeks that looks familiar.  I would caution against this until you’ve formulated an exit strategy with multiple what-ifs.  However, sometimes we don’t wait for whatever reason and we find ourselves on a one-way train to crazyville with our partner.

If you are in the middle of the argument – stop.  This can be difficult, especially if you love a good argument or you are convinced you’re right.  When the realization hits you that you really don’t want to be in this argument, stop arguing.  Instead, ask for a moment to think, tell him that you think he may have a point, and you’d like to mull it over before continuing the discussion.  Your partner may not be all that willing to give you one, especially if he’s the type that loves to win, and you may have to forcibly walk away for the moment.

If, on the other hand, you’re already in the middle of a cold war, it’s time to break the ice.  Tell him that obviously something has gone drastically wrong and you’d at least like a chance to talk it through and clear the air.  Then tell him that you’re willing to do it when he’s ready so that he doesn’t feel cornered.  It may not resolve the entire problem but it should make the air distinctly less chilly between the two of you.

Of course now you’re going to have to come up with that plan I mentioned earlier….

Holiday shopping made easy

Shopping plus overextending your credit = fighting.  Don’t let this happen to your relationship.  Have a frank talk before even thinking of what you want to buy for people.  Here’s what you should discuss:

  • An overall budget for the holiday.  How much can you reasonably afford to spend on presents, entertaining, and the general miscellany without purchasing on credit?
  • A budget for entertaining.  Are you hosting a party or a holiday meal?  Put together a realistic budget for it.  Don’t let your pride prevent you from entertaining.  Ask your friends and family to bring a dish or some beverages.
  • A budget for presents.  You’ll need to know how much you can spend overall (again, put nothing on credit) and then individual budgets for presents.  It’s more fair to say, “everyone ten and under gets a $10 present” than to say “my nephew deserves a $50 present while your niece deserves a $10 present”.  Opt to eliminate whole categories (i.e., no present for cousins, no presents for adults) than individual people.
  • Discuss deferring purchasing presents for each other until Valentine’s Day.
  • A budget for general miscellany.  You’re going to want to celebrate a little so include that into your budget.  At some point you’re going to be too tired to cook and want to order a pizza – include that in your budget.
  • Do not use your credit cards – it’s financial suicide.   Putting yourself into debt for years to afford one holiday is ridiculous.  People love you, not your money or your ability to give presents.
  • Shop early and use the layaway system instead of your credit cards.
  • Starting January, save for the next holiday season rather than paying off your debt from this one.  Or shop throughout the year to defray the holiday crush.
  • Comparison shop online but remember, if you buy online, you’re paying for shipping (this is worthwhile if you would have to mail the package anyhow).
  • Remember, a present is something you give freely and with no expectation of reciprocation.  It is the recipient’s right to break it within 5 minutes of receiving it.
  • Stick to the rules and do not argue with your significant other over a presents.  It’s not worth the argument.

Don’t fight, negotiate

The cornerstone of any relationship is agreement although it is virtually impossible to agree on everything and still be your authentic self.  The key to not getting into an all-out war is negotiation.  Negotiation isn’t difficult and you’ve been participating in it ever since you convinced little Jenny on the playground to let you go first at hopscotch.  It does get a bit more complicated as you get older but the basic premise is the same – distributing the gains and losses to make it come out even in the end.

The difference between negotiating in relationships and negotiating in business is that in relationships you will be facing that person on a daily basis – so a win-win is truly necessary.  While it will be difficult, do your best to be generous in a negotiation and trust that the other person will be generous in return.  You may also find that what you thought was a need is actually a want and faced with a decision between that want and your partner, that your partner will win out (and rightfully so – an object or service can never replace another human being).

Getting to negotiation can be a bit awkward to begin with…that is, until everyone involved grows comfortable with the process.  Expect a bit of resistance from your partner or even a feeling of self-consciousness from yourself the first few times.  As you repeat the process and both partners see how well it works, you’ll move more quickly from arguing to negotiating.

Communication not competition

Communication is a team sport, not an individual competition.  Sometimes when we’re in a relationship, we’re so busy trying to get our point across that we completely forget about listening to the other person.  Do any of these sound familiar?

  • You’re in an argument and you’re so convinced of your position, you’re not hearing what the other person is saying – you’re trying to win.  Your partner is getting frustrated that you’re not even trying to hear their point-of-view.  Best case scenario:  the fight escalates.  Worst case scenario:  your partner gives up on you and the relationship.
  • You’ve had a bad day at work.  When you get home, your partner has a miserable look on his face.  Rather than asking what’s wrong, you immediately launch into a summary of your day.
  • Your partner is relating a story to some friends.  As he’s talking, you launch into your version of the story or start correcting his version of the story.

Competition is a natural part of life but you should be supporting your partner, not competing with him.  You may not even be aware that you’re doing it so ask your husband if you engage in this particular bad habit.  Potential pitfalls of competing?  Miscommunicating with or alienating your mate.  Yikes!

Put on a unified front

When you’re married, it’s imperative that you put on a united front even if you don’t feel like doing so at that exact moment.  A united front indicates to people that they will not be able to divide and conquer your relationship.  It also helps both partners feel supported and feel that the partnership is a cohesive unit.  If someone sees a crack they can exploit, they might try to do just that.

So how do you provide a united front?

  1. Do not argue in public.  I’m not talking about a humorous disagreement during light banter.  Arguing or fighting in front of others is unacceptable.  It makes you look bad and it makes others uncomfortable.  If you feel that things are heading toward an argument, stop yourself and agree to to talk things over in private.
  2. Do not flirt with others, especially not in front of your mate.  If someone gets the idea that you’re available – it’s probably because you gave it to them.
  3. Discuss hot button topics before an event.  If your new mother-in-law keeps asking when she’s going to be a grandmother, make sure you and your partner are giving the same answer.  If his boss asks how you’ll feel if your partner gets a promotion and has to travel, make sure you’re singing the same tune as your mate.
  4. Be respectful of one another.  Do not tear your partner down in front of other (or at all but especially not in front of others).  Have one close friend with whom you speak about your relationship issues.  Never put your partner down (name calling, insults, etc.)
  5. Do not make one person the “heavy” in the relationship.  Saying no is a joint responsibility, don’t make one person look like the bad guy.  It can’t always be your husband’s fault that you don’t go to your mom’s dreaded holiday dinner.

Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity.

If you don’t recognize the quote, it’s George Carlin.

People fight.  Couples fight.  When our words fail us, when we feel that we are in danger of losing a logical argument, when we can’t seem to let go of our preconceived notions – we fight.  Later on in this blog I’ll teach you how to fight and more importantly, how to fight productively.  For the moment, let’s just take it as a fact that people fight.

However, fighting doesn’t have to be the end of a relationship.  In fact, you should never break up during a fight.  During a fight, tensions are high, your emotions aren’t under your control, you’re too busy blowing up or shutting down to make a rational decision.  In the middle of a fight, you shouldn’t be making any decisions that impact your life in a major way.  Bite those words back as hard as you need to because you can’t take them back.

Instead, after the fight when you’re calm, ask yourself if your life would be better without the person.  Breaking up should be a cold, rational decision, entered into after heavy consideration and weighing the pros and cons.  No, it’s not romantic – but breaking up isn’t romantic either.