01 September 2008

Negotiation

I read a fair number of other blogs, some regularly, some when a comment catches my eye, some just because I'm avoiding real work (like now). There is a dichotomy between people who write about their spouse/relationship and people who do not. I have mostly been in the do not crowd, you see mentions of K from time to time, but not too often. He knows I write, he's decided that he doesn't need to read it because it is all "old news" anyway. I suppose he's right because I tend to tell him stories from my day after I've had some time to think and frame the story more like how I would write about it than how it actually happened, you know, HIPPA and all. Anyway, after that brief journey into left field...

A few years back we had come to a point where neither of us was happy and there was much time spent arguing, yelling, crying, stomping, door slamming, the works. We pushed through for a while and eventually decided maybe a third party opinion was needed. After some discussion with the professional, we came to "I" statements. When we argue, we're supposed to stop accusing one another with "you do X" or "you need to stop doing Y" and instead frame the problem differently, "I feel attacked and belittled when you do Y". Very difficult advice, especially when you're mad enough to be yelling as we don't have a lot of arguments that involve calm, rational thought. The problem is, we both heard this advice and we both know that what I'm really saying is "Stop that" not some sort of squishy, namby-pamby, you need to respect my feelings statement, and vice versa. The one big benefit has been to realize we don't have to resolve a fight at that moment. Sure, we have to stop fighting, back off to neutral corners and take a little time, but nobody has to be declared the winner.

Recently, I've been working on negotiation tactics, give a little, get a little, find a compromise. I like to do this out loud, as a conversation between us. K has apparently been doing this on his own, behind the scenes. No, I don't know why, just his deal I guess. The problem with this disconnect is that I don't necessarily know what the heck he's up to. The current scenario involves him constantly being up in my grill. "Where you going?" "What are you doing?" and on and on. When I can answer these questions politely, they are usually followed by some sort of "advice". Which annoys me as I wear big girl panties and can manage for myself, and I know where to find him if I want his opinion. During the discussion/negotiation phase, I've learned that many of these questions are not actually the ones he wants to ask. Instead of "Where are you going?", he really wants to know "Are you hanging around long enough that we can watch that movie we rented?". Instead of "Do you know where you're running?", he really wants to know "Can you tell me where you're going so I know where to look for you if you're not home soon?". Very different questions. For the record, there have been elements of compromise on both sides, but we're still stuck.

So here's the part I'm struggling with...is it unreasonable to expect him to ask the questions he really wants answered instead of the annoying ones? He says that it isn't the questions which are annoying, just my perception of his intention. I need to stop attributing "ridiculous" motives to his questions and just answer him so he can expand on what it is he wants. I think that if I was asking something that was being misinterpreted, it would be my responsibility to clarify, not the listener's responsibility to change their thinking. And around and around we go.

3 comments:

manchmedic said...

That disconnect you refer to is definitely a male-specific phenomenon. I know because I am guilty of it myself. So don't take it personally when he does that; I suspect he can't help it. The only way to fix it is to somehow draw him out, and it sounds like you've been trying to do that. It may take some time, but keep at it. You will eventually succeed. And for what it's worth, in the five years that M and I have been married, she's been working on me and continues to do so.

As for your expectation of his questioning.... No. It is not unreasonable for you to expect that he asks you what he wants to know directly instead of the short, stupid-sounding questions he's asking now. You have a right to that. At the same time, you'll probably have to keep working on him on that front, too. It's much like the other thing I was talking about; much of it is male-specific and, likely, learned from what he saw growing up; his father and mother probably went through much the same thing that you and K are dealing with now.

Keep working at it, Jen. At some point he will figure out what's going on.

B said...

Your never-married sister would like to add to manchmedic's advice that if after working and compromising with K. doesn't seem to be making any progress, my Good Housekeeping's Manual to marriage says that it's perfectly acceptable to knee your spouce in the groin and watch them roll around in misery while you shout, "THAT is where I'm going!" If you follow that up with life-affirming I-statement, such as: "and I feel pretty good about it," this advice might even be therapist-approved.

Ellie said...

Afraid I can't offer much advice on this front, but wanted to say that I like the new layout. Keep working at the negotiation/comprimise thing, hopefully it will work out for the best!