Do you have any conflicts or differences that just keep coming up, never to be resolved?  You may discuss them to no avail, and then sweep them under the rug.

Then–when other problems come up–it feels like an avalanche of unsolved issues and creates low morale in the relationship.

Much of my blog has been focused on moving past a focus on solutions, in order to create connection, consciousness, and unity.  But sometimes, problems just need to be solved.

There is a time and place for problem solving, and there are “good and bad” ways to do it. In order to be successful, certain things need to be in place.

The Foundation for Successful Negotiation:

Negotiations in partnership are not like in the boardroom.  Quite the opposite.  In relationships, good will is of huge importance!

Your goal is to work from the same team, from the “usness place.” You will be more successful if you have already invested in your joint emotional bank account.

Check to see if you have done these:

  • Learn how to avoid blame. (To find out how to break this habit, click  here)
  • Help your partner feel loved. Your partner may feel loved in different ways than you do. Be sure to know what makes your partner feel loved and make a conscious effort to do these things. You will get a lot back from this.
  • Practice daily appreciation. Take time to focus on what you really appreciate about your partner, and express this to your partner each and every day.
If you are short on these three things, make them your focus for the  next week or so BEFORE attempting to problem solve. Then you will be far better positioned for successful negotiation.

Problem Solving Techniques

Once you’ve done the above, choose one problem you want to solve and set a time to talk about it. Both people should be ready and willing to create the space for intentional conversation.

Dr. Jonathon Robinson, in his book Communication Miracles for Couples, shares conversations he has facilitated with couples tackling old issues.

What he found is that the successful conversations followed these steps:

1) Lay out the problem and then ask: “Considering what we both want here, what do you think would work best for both of us?”

 If your partner has no suggestions, say “I have some ideas, can I share them with you?’

The purpose of this conversation is NOT to convince your partner why  you are right, or to show how they are wrong. Instead, the guiding principle is that you are in this together, on the same team. The intention is always to sharing and exchange ideas:  “I would like _________ and here’s why.” Do not speak for the other person, but only for yourself.

Frame your wishes in terms of your life dreams (what you envision), NOT in terms of what you don’t want.

2) Create an experiment.

Couples are often loathe to commit to a long-term agreement, because it can feel like such a serious sacrifice.  To avoid this fear, agree to try a solution as an experiment. Your first attempt may not be the long-term solution. Just try SOMETHING, and commit to it until the end of your agreed upon time-frame.

3) Make a declaration.

Be clear and explicit about what you have agreed upon. Create a simple ritual that shows a deal has been reached. You could sign something, do a “pinky-promise,” seal with a kiss, or sign a contract. Whatever works for you.

You may get off track. That is ok, just get back on as soon as possible!

4) Practice this first on lower stake problems. 

It’s best if you can start this process with a smaller issue, so you can practice without so much pressure. Then you can pick a bigger one.

Remember, you MUST be more committed to reaching a solution than blaming your partner. It’s hard work. And not only that: When you finally reach a satisfactory agreement, it won’t necessarily feel good.

But it works!

The benefit of actually resolving an old problem is a renewed sense of hope, agency, and expansion.

So if you feel defeated by an old issue, or fear you are settling for far less than you hope for, don’t give up!  Try these steps above and give them 100%.

Let me know if I can be helpful to you. And, as always, I love hearing how it goes in the comments below!

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