Some years ago, Dr. Laura posted my thoughts about relationship negotiation on her front page. The thing is, most of us have unwarranted entitlement expectations from our significant others. No one helped us connect the dots that, as adults, we cannot expect others to meet our unstated needs. We need to ask for them to met. More importantly, we need to be willing to accept “No” for an answer without blaming or shaming our partner. I’ve updated my ideas here.
Relationship negotiation doesn’t sound very romantic or sexy, but it is the foundation of lasting love. Without strong, conscious relationship negotiating skills, couples are bound for conflict, fighting, and frustration. Here are four principles of relationship negotiation.
Relationship Negotiation Principle 1: Fairness Is What You Create, Not What You Deserve
Many people believe that life is supposed to be fair. If “the rules” are followed, if we eat our vegetables, if we are nice, and work hard, somehow we will be rewarded for our goodness.
In relationships, the myth is if I am nice, loving, kind, and affectionate, my partner will do the same for me. Sadly, this myth is a lie told to us in childhood to make us behave like good little children.
Life is not fair, and you are not entitled to fairness.
There, I said it.
If you want to be treated fairly, you have to work at it. Fairness is not some gift bestowed by your fairy godmother.
On other hand, a good life is not about grabbing everything you can for yourself to the exclusion of everyone else. That’s not fair either, to you or to those around you.
There has to be a balance, and balance is created through relationship negotiation.
Fairness is what you create, not what you think you are entitled to because you are good person.
Principle 2: You Have to Ask for What You Want
As infants and small children, we could not ask for what we needed. We could only make a lot of noise to get someone’s attention. It was up to someone else to figure out whether we needed a diaper change or a bottle. Miraculously, Mom or Dad appeared and took care of us.
While we learned to negotiate many other aspects of our lives as adults, we were not taught how to ask for what we needed and wanted in relationships. Instead, we carry a belief our unspoken needs that oure partner will instantly recognize and satisfy us.
Of course, when that doesn’t happen, we feel rejected, frustrated, unloved, and neglected.
The principle is you have to ask for what you want in your relationship. Whatever it is you want is not going to appear out of the blue. If you don’t make your needs known to your partner, don’t expect him or her to read your mind. This is an infantile belief, not an adult belief. Get rid of it.
Principle 3: Don’t Be Afraid of “No”
The corollary to having the courage to ask for what you want is having the courage to accept “No” with grace. Just because you ask, doesn’t mean that you get.
You must give your partner free choice without guilt-tripping him or her into capitulating to you. If you ask for a hug and your partner says, “No,” you have a great opportunity to find out why. Maybe the timing is not right. Maybe the place is not right. Maybe your partner is in another mind-set at the moment.
Your best response is not to get angry or feel rejected, but to negotiate. If not now, how about hug in 15 minutes.
“No” is usually never the final answer. The secret is to welcome a “No” as an opportunity to negotiate something better later.
Most importantly, “No” is rarely a rejection of you. If you take the time to find out what is going on, you will learn that the “No” is all about your partner, and not about you.
Principle 4: Doormats Are For Dirty Feet
Relationships are about power. When couples feel like the power is balanced, the relationship tends to be happier and more fulfilling. When one or the other partner feels disempowered, the relationship is in difficulty.
Do not allow yourself to be a doormat. If your desire for love, attachment, and bonding is so great you suppress your own needs, you are in deep trouble. Learn how to take care of your needs by having the courage to say “No.”
This is the flip-side of Principle 3: Don’t be afraid to say “No” when you need to.
Be prepared for anger and rejection and question the maturity of the relationship if your partner throws a tantrum.