The game of love is tough. Two different players, with different strengths, and different skill sets. In a relationship, sometimes it can feel like your teammate is your opponent, which makes teamwork close to impossible. The problem with couples who experience this is often times the “I’m right, you’re wrong” mentality.
If you want to win at love, eradicate this belief from your relationship immediately. The “I’m right, you’re wrong” mentality is never effective during an emotional disagreement because the person who is trying to prove they are right is telling their partner what they are feeling is wrong and vice versa. If you have ever been in this position before, you are well aware that a discussion like this can last for hours, days, or a lifetime if left unresolved. Discussions like these can easily transform a couple from teammates to opponents; and if you have enough of them, layers of disappointment can lead to resentment and ultimately emotional disconnection.
How can you stay on the same team?
- Strengths vs. Weaknesses
On any team, the players work together focusing on their strengths. No one is perfect and life experiences shape us in many ways. Some experiences make us stronger while others are an emotional work in progress. When you become aware of and acknowledge your shortcomings, you are gaining power and control of them. You are also taking responsibility for how it has impacted your relationship and the way in which you navigate challenges that you face as a couple.
Once you have each acknowledged your shortcomings, take some time to point out each other’s strengths. What has your partner done in the past during an argument that you have found helpful? Try completing this sentence: “When I ______________ it’s because it’s difficult for me to ______________ and I find it helpful when you _______________ because you’re really good at that”.
- Externalize the Problem
The trick to this is all in the way you phrase the issue. You can either say “You dedicate all your time to work and you never have time for me” or “Work is stealing a lot of our time these days…I wish it would give us some time alone”. In the first sentence, the problem is attached to the partner, placing responsibility on him or her to make changes. If these changes are difficult to make, the partner might feel defeated, defensive, and irritated. Conversely, the second statement places responsibility on the problem, the third party: work. It is a message stating that the partner is missed in the relationship and invites conversation on how to tackle the problem together.
- State Your Goal Early in the Game
Stating your goal early on gives each person an idea of what they are working towards. Being teammates means having your eyes set on the same goal. Before starting the conversation, briefly preface it with the purpose. Expanding on the example of time, one might say “My goal is for us to somehow find a way to make more time for one another, is that something that we could work towards in this conversation?”. Always check in with your teammate and make sure they are willing to work towards the same goal. If your goals are different, go back to step two and explain how the opposing team (the problem) has been affecting you emotionally. Search for a deeper root if necessary and do not hesitate to ask your teammate for help if you are having trouble expressing how you feel.
Feeling misunderstood by your significant other can be frustrating and discouraging…don’t give up! Talking about your game plan before you start playing against the problem gives you preparation and confidence that you can help one another win.
Are you struggling with competition in your relationship? See more on this topic here.