The Perfect Mate-Part 2

Monday, June 23rd, 2008 at 12:00 am


CounselorLetter

The Perfect Mate–Part 2

(“Perfect Mate, Part 1″ is here)

As you can tell from reading The Perfect Mate, Part 1, there really isn’t “the” perfect mate. Perhaps the most important notion to keep in mind is that the closest thing to perfection we can achieve in a relationship is providing a safe environment in which to manage our differences effectively, with each partner operating from a position of personal integrity, with the intention of building a solid foundation of trust. Such an atmosphere is fertile for growth. Growth is a fluid, ongoing mutual effort, while perfection is a sure set-up for disappointment.

Many or most differences can be negotiated, managed effectively and addressed collaboratively. However, some differences are not negotiable. They are:

1. Values

2. Feelings

3. Attitudes

Values, feelings, and attitudes often are the source of major or many conflicts because they are not negotiable.

An attempt to negotiate something the non-negotiated usually results in constant or repetitive conflict, growing distance, and profound frustration.

Here are some examples of values, and why they are not negotiable:

Religion – usually religion is not negotiable because each partner’s belief system is life-long, with the deepest meanings attached to it. Because of that, partners may be unwilling or unable to alter or part with it. That does not mean that couples of differing faiths should not, or cannot be together. Accommodating different faiths usually requires purposeful collaboration and cooperation such that neither partner is coerced to abandon their core belief, nor compromise their integrity. Few interpersonal chores are bigger and more complicated.

Having children — when dating or courtship progress to deep connection, and the desire to be together for the long term is mutual, hopefully both partners are on the same page about whether or not to have children. If not, it is not likely either partner will convince the other to change their mind–at least not without a very high cost attached to it. So, be bold. Ask where she/he stands on the ‘having kids issue.’

It’s not necessary to bring it up on the first date. But it does mean answering honestly when the subject is broached. Here, however, is where some couples face a personal conflict: do you tell him/her your stance on having kids, and risk losing the relationship? If you agree to something so major, so life changing, out of fear of losing the relationship, you are compromising your happiness and integrity. In the end, you may lose the relationship. In the long run, being honest with your partner will not be as painful as lying to yourself.

Emotions or feelings are not negotiable for some very interesting reasons. First, by the time a feeling is being experienced, its too late–it’s already there. Second, feelings are a very important part of the communication process. Emotions are part of the data that allows us to be understood. Attempting to negotiate away your partner’s feelings is often experienced as diminishing and belittling. The expression of an emotion can be a road map to understanding your partner’s experience. When you ignore an opportunity to understand your partner you reduce your chances of connecting. When opportunities for connecting are missed or avoided, distance will occur, the relationship suffers.

The bottom line is this — you probably will not find the “perfect” mate, but you can raise the odds of creating a very satisfying partnership if you each possess similar values and attitudes while providing a safe environment for the expression of feelings. When those are aligned with an effective conflict management process, a foundation of trust takes shape, all of which can lead to a satisfying connection and a long-lasting and happy relationship.

Wishing you a satisfying relationship,

Jim Hutt, Ph.D., MFT

Go to “Perfect Mate, Part 1″

Contact Dr. Hutt

©Jim Hutt, Ph.D., MFT 2008

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