Sharing and being a good listener is something we all need to practice regularly. When we disagree with our partners, it’s easy to get caught up in emotions, and that’s never a good way to resolve anything.
The truth is, even the most loving couples conflict over big life decisions; it’s only natural. But if you can see each other’s viewpoint, even if you disagree with it, you’re on your way to finding a resolution you can both live with.
Big life decisions—like buying a home, moving, changing careers, having children, or inviting your aging parents to move in—are stressful! Some couples go to great lengths to avoid these topics until they absolutely must talk about them, but that’s never the best way to go. To make matters worse, COVID-19 has added a new layer of complexity. Disagreements might revolve around who to have in your bubble or what risks are okay to take. You won’t always agree on the best solution. The key to getting through these challenging moments is communication.
When you don’t communicate in your relationship, every decision made is a minefield. It’s never easy sharing your feelings, but without open dialogue, you won’t know how your partner feels until it all comes out –usually in a big explosion!
Here are a few tips on how to improve communication around decision-making:
Set Aside Time to Listen
If you’ve got a big issue to discuss, don’t wait to table the topic. Set aside time to share your feelings and talk about hopes and concerns around the decision. Make sure you’re dedicating time specifically to the problem – in other words, don’t try to fit it in between other things. You may have to have subsequent discussions about it, too, so don’t feel like you have to have a resolution right away. Unless you’re under the gun, give the topic enough space to develop so you can both express your feelings around it.
The goal when listening is to try to empathize with your partner. Listen closely and be curious! Ask probing questions. Don’t interrupt or argue your position until they are done talking. Dig deep and try to identify all your motivations so you’re not on the defensive or offensive when it’s your turn. Stay neutral, be objective, and don’t judge when you are listening to your partner. When you listen, you gain admission to each other’s world.
Problem-solving is another way to tackle a big decision. After listening to each other and sharing your unique perspectives, you should be able to come together to find a solution. This is when a couple can put their heads together to come up with a strategy you can both get behind. Once you’ve finished your session, both of you should take some time to assess the pros and cons and let what you’ve talked about really sink in. Set a time to reconvene and share new thoughts and ideas. Even after doing the groundwork, you might still be on the fence. You should have a deadline but give yourselves enough time to ensure your decision is well-thought-out.
Check-In With Your Partner
Just because you’ve made your decision, that doesn’t mean the process is over. One of you might still feel sad about the decision, even if the problem-solving phase helped you realize it was not financially or physically feasible to pursue your ideas. Though you have both accepted the decision, the sadness might continue, and it’s important to acknowledge and validate those feelings, so your partner doesn’t feel like they lost something. Just because it can’t happen now doesn’t mean it won’t ever happen. Hold onto hope and keep sharing your dreams because that’s how you grow together.
Disagreements Are Sometimes Constructive!
Not all disagreements have to be argumentative. As a couple, you share many hopes and dreams, but as individuals, you might have ideas that don’t exactly fit in with your partner’s vision.
When you take the time to listen to each other, you’ll grow closer. The check-in time prompts you to think about your dreams for the future. Did you decide in your partner’s favour this time? Does that mean you get priority on the next big decision? How did the decision-making process work for you as a couple? You might even want to take notes to help keep track of your process. These reflections will come in handy later on if your memories differ.
In the end, even when there’s conflict, you should always feel like you made a joint decision. The outcome may not always go the way you want, but it’s essential that both of you feel heard and can accept the result. If you can trust the decision-making process you and your partner have developed, your relationship will not only survive; it will thrive.