"As lessons of love and
opening your heart, we have emphasized that relationships
naturally bring to light areas where you each are blocked to
love. Often, the arising of such blocks can be seen as a
sign that you have expanded to your next deepest level. So
the occurrence of problems can be a testimony to progress!
But of course they do not feel very good, and they can be
difficult to work with.
"Each time problems and
challenges come in your relationship, you have the choice of
how you will handle them. This is perhaps where it is most
critical to choose the partnership approach. If you do not
make your problem solving collaborative, it can easily
become adversarial, competitive, or a means of building
feelings of inequality between you. None of these is
desirable in the end.
"There is a simple
behavioral example that illustrates how to invoke a
partnership approach to problems. When I have couples do
this they almost instantly feel the shift and incorporate
it. It even works just to imagine it. Think of this: you and
your partner are having a difficulty and have begun to talk
about it. You are sitting facing one another. Each has their
own desires and opinions with regard to the matter. You have
asked yourselves the question "how are we going to deal with
this?" If you find yourselves cooperating, you each are
trying to change your positions so they ultimately coincide.
Sometimes you make efforts to influence the other's
position, sometimes you release your position to adopt a new
one. The process is often characterized by an underlying
feeling of getting and giving, of you and them making
exchanges. Here's the rub--it easily becomes your position
versus their position, your ideas and desires in contrast to
theirs. It's like two people trying to dance with both
sometimes wanting to lead, and trying to figure out how to
make that work. It easily lends itself to the feeling of you
versus each other.
"Now imagine you and
your partner with the same difficulty, except you are
sitting beside one another facing a large piece of paper. On
the paper is written the issue. As you face toward it, you
are asking yourselves the question "how are we going to deal
with this?" It gives rise to the feeling that the two of you
are joined, much like a team, in addressing the challenge
represented by the challenge in front of you. You both take
ownership for it and share responsibility for resolving it.
The feeling of your partner sitting beside you is one of
support, companionship, and collaboration. This is the
feeling of partnership. If it helps, think of yourselves as
members of a team, each with unique talents and skills that
make the team more versatile and capable, and that you must
decide how best to execute your next play."
© 2000 Mark Shafer