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Can you keep the love alive even when you disagree?

By admin on March 12th, 2008 1 comment

bridezilla.JPGAmdist the sea of press releases currently drowning my inbox is an interesting one about love and relationships. “Can Democrats and Republicans Find True Love That Lasts (With Each Other)?” asks the release with “America’s Love Doctor” Linda Olson asking if it is possible for people with completely opposing interests to be in love. The release points at the relationship between Democratic commentator for CNN’s “The Situation Room” James Carville, and his wife Mary Matalin, a powerhouse Republican consultant. That’s a big split in interests for sure.

Below are a few tips from “America’s Love Doctor” on “how even the most hard-lined Republicans and Democrats can work toward happiness together by making complex matters of the heart just a little more simple.” So far, so good. Political angle makes it all sound very solid.

There are some interesting – and fairly common sense ideas for ensuring relationships work. For example, “Try changing up the way you normally argue about hot button topics or what news channel to watch – new communication skills are the key to better relationships! When you begin to communicate in a positive, workable way, your relationship with your lover, kids, and friends will begin move in a positive direction and become more pleasant.”

Now, which news channel to watch isn’t a hot button topic in my house but yes, I see where she’s going. Be positive!

Dr Olson says there are three simple steps to ensure you can talk, your partner will listen and that your partner is actively listening so you can discuss topics.

These steps are; One: “Mirror – Reflect back EXACTLY what you heard – just like a tape recorder. Do not ADD any of your own interpretation or spin. When you have repeated your partner’s words, ask if you got them right. Remember the speaker talks in thought chunks.

Here is an example: She says: “I feel misunderstood.” You say (mirroring) “So you feel misunderstood?” ”

Round about this point I’d be saying, ‘Of course I feel misunderstood, I just told you that!”

Step two: “Validate – Use expressions such as “That makes sense” or “I can see that”. Remember that YOU are validating your partner’s point of view as reasonable. It is his point of view, not yours.”

But what if s/he’s being totally unreasonable, why would you ‘validate’ that?

“Keep in mind that you do not have to agree or share a point of view to validate it. If you find that you’re unable validate your partners point of view this means ether you are mistaking validation for agreement or you need to get more information from your partner.”

Oh, I see, you ‘validate’ something that is crap in your opinion or you can’t validate what s/he said because they aren’t agreeing in which case you are wrong or you have to keep the conversation going to a point where one of you gives in. This is called nagging. It’s a useful tool.

Dr Olson gives this example “It makes sense that you feel misunderstood when I do not listen to you.”


Step three: “Empathize – Start your response with “I imagine that you are feeling …” try to find ONE WORD only to complete the sentence. For example: “I imagine you are feeling hurt…anxious…unappreciated, etc.”
Your partner will be able to tell you if you have understood his message or not, and if not, what you may have missed. This is a process that always works but practicing it is key.”

But hasn’t she just told us to listen so why apologize for not listening? Somehow I feel if someone tried these techniques on me, I’d feel patronised. And if I tried these on my partner he would too. However, I firmly resolve to try them out on my cat. “You want more bikkits? I can see that. I imagine you are feeling sad that I am not giving you any more bikkits. Too bad. Do you feel good? Great! I feel validated! Still, no more bikkits for you”.

Really it’s simple. Stay calm, try and talk things through and if your partner is still so stuck in their own box that they can’t even begin to see your side of things, either assess if you’re wrong (heavens forbid!) or if you’re dating a control freak.

  • I think there are dealbreakers, but surely any two reasonable people can work things out without needing a patronising checklist?

    I knew one couple who kept it going for several years (translatlantic long distance, too!) even though he was resolutely anti-guns and she was a member of the NRA… Probably because he is to this day one of the nicest, least argumentative people I’ve ever know.

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