If you're in a relationship and are ready to deal with your conflicts, don't be afraid. You and your partner have the power to share your feelings and needs-and reach agreement peacefully.
Is it possible for you and your partner to resolve smoothly the differences that arise in your relationship? Can the two of you have conversations that are safe and mutually supportive? Can you make "negotiating love" a part of your daily routine?" The answer to all three questions is yes.
What is "negotiating love?" Let's contrast it with a skill you already know: negotiating. Every day you negotiate; you share information back and forth, dealing and bargaining, in order to reach agreement. In a business negotiation, you and the other person are adversaries. Because of your competing interests, you mistrust each other. So you work against each other, not as a team. For example, when you are buying a house you offer a low price, while the seller tries to get the highest possible one.
Lovers who reach agreement have a different outlook. Our mindset isn't "you against me"; we see each other as allies and caring friends. We "negotiate love" in an atmosphere of comfort and safety. We strive to trust each other.
Trusting Each Other
It is difficult to trust another person, even someone you love. We sometimes see each other as potentially dangerous, for we know that even a loving partner can abuse, abandon, betray, or disappoint us. Some of us have been physically or emotionally abused. Others of us have suffered when a parent or a former spouse walked out. Most of us have felt disappointed when someone we trusted broke a promise.
When we feel disappointed, we feel powerless and angry. We withdraw emotionally from each other or counterattack with words and actions. We don't want to communicate, let alone negotiate our differences.
But there is there another option. You and your partner can negotiate love by communicating as allies and creating trust. While mistrust and attack may be rules of thumb in the business world, they don't have to pervade your loving relationships. Instead you and your spouse can together create safe space by expressing your anger in a healthy way, forgiving each other for disappointments, and making amends to each other afterwards. Then the two of you can negotiate love -- share your feelings and your needs and brainstorm for a solution that meets both of your needs.
Negotiating love is challenging, because you and your partner are dealing with sensitive emotional issues. Both of you have wounds from your past that hurt when they are touched. Since you are of two different sexes, you have different outlooks and ways of communicating.
How can you overcome these obstacles? First you can discover what your most painful wounds are. You can share this information with your partner, so she won't inadvertently injure you. Second, you can stop insisting, "I'm right; you're wrong." Instead you can listen carefully to what your partner says and reply, "You might have a point." Third, you can quit saying, "I'm innocent; it's all your fault" and declare, "We are both responsible for what has happened." Fourth, you can create the "relationship spirit" with your lover. When you agree on a mutually acceptable solution, you don't tell your lover, "I'm doing this for your sake," but "I'm doing this for the sake of the relationship." Each time you utter these words, your connection with your partner becomes stronger. As you prepare yourself to give and take in order to reach agreement, you feel more alive and more powerful.
To negotiate love effectively, you have to see yourself as a powerful. In any relationship, you are as powerful as you perceive you are. Each sex has special, different kinds of power within. Women have emotional, sexual and maternal powers. Men have the powers of valuing and recognition, affection and caring, sexual acceptance, occupational support, and fathering. As you get to know yourself, you get more in touch with your inner power, which ultimately comes from God's.
When negotiating love, you have to realize you are as powerful as your partner. You each bring to your relationship the unique power of your own sex. Women and men really are equals and want to treat each other this way. Both you and your partner have feelings and needs that are valuable and worthy of being honored. Take the time to share them with each other. Instead of sweeping your feelings under the rug, it's a lot more fun -- and much more satisfying -- to negotiate love.
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About The Author
Riki Robbins Jones, Ph.D. is the author of Negotiating Love: How Women and Men Can Resolve Their Differences (Ballantine Books, 1995). She is from Alexandria, VA.