We’ve all experienced a situation like this: it’s six o’clock and there’s nothing at the house, it’s your anniversary or time to celebrate a new milestone, and you can’t agree on where to go out to eat. You really want to go to a new restaurant down the street, and your partner really wants to go to the same restaurant you always seem to go to. You’re tired of the same old thing; they don’t want something new, what do you do? It might look something like this:
Partner: “I really want to go to 317 Burger”
You: “We go to 317 Burger all the time, I’m sick of it. I want to go to Hacienda.”
Partner: “You know I hate Mexican food, why would you even suggest that? I thought we were celebrating my promotion.”
Now, let’s take a moment to pause here. At this point both you and your partner are frustrated, you might even be on the brink of a fight that keeps you from going anywhere or celebrating anything that evening. You don’t feel heard, your partner doesn’t feel heard, and everyone is on the defense.
As trivial as choosing a place to eat might seem it can really become a big deal. It’s not simple because we often don’t express what we truly want and why, and we aren’t always the best mind readers either. So next time you find yourself in an all-out war about your dinner plans take a moment to find out what your partner is really saying and to express what you really mean. That could look something like this:
Partner: “I really want to go to 317 Burger.”
You: “You really want to go to 317 Burger, what makes you want to go there?”
Partner: “A burger sounds really good today.”
You: “Oh, you’re in the mood for a good burger. I don’t really feel up for burgers tonight.”
Partner: “Well, what do you want?”
You: “Mexican food sounds really good.”
Partner: “I don’t like any of the Mexican restaurants.”
You: “Well, is there a place that has Mexican food and burgers?”
Partner: “Umm…we really like Chili’s, they have burgers and Mexican.”
You: “Oh! You’re right, how about we go there?”
Partner: “Sounds good to me”
You go off to enjoy the best plate of fajitas you have had in a while and your partner gets to enjoy a juicy barbeque burger (with the onion strings, of course). Maybe you even share chips and salsa or some of your partners perfectly seasoned fries. To top the evening off, you and your partner split a freshly baked chocolate chip skillet cookie topped with ice cream and chocolate sauce in celebration of your partner’s promotion–certainly a fun night to be remembered.
What’s helpful about this dialogue is that when both individuals get to express the kind of food that they really want the situation becomes a win-win; everyone is heard and valued, and the relationship is supported. Often in relationships we settle for compromise. We settle for meeting halfway between what each person wants. We settle for doing it your way this time and my way next time. We settle for poor communication. If we approach the conflict or disagreement with meaningful communication, we would both be able to walk away satisfied and encouraged in the relationship.