Any relationship is the meeting of two imperfect people. We can either get frustrated by our differences, or understand and embrace them. Many relationships really struggle if one is excessively practical and the other very emotional. Both extremes are detrimental to relationship.
This is possibly one of the hardest differences to manage. We often hear the practical one say, "If it were me, I would..." when they are frustrated by the emotional reaction from their friend, spouse or workmate. Well it must be realised that they are not you and process differently. The frustration may come as a result of many things; such as, the practical party being too tight with finances so the family has no life, or the other party engaging in emotional spending or having a reactive attitude to time constraints. Here are a couple of tips:
- Communicate expectations. Pick a suitable time to discuss your differences and set some guidelines to avoid conflict. Both partners must agree that guidelines are necessary. It takes two!
Major on the majors. If both react to every action, major and minor, they will drive themselves crazy. It is important to be selective as to what needs to be addressed.
Delay addressing the issue. Either party addressing inappropriate behaviour in the moment usually heightens the emotion. Leave it until everyone is calm and then go back to the issue.
Here are some real life stories for each around the 'Design a Decade' program.
A couple contacted us for support. One, the emotional one, was very upset because they believed their spouse did not want them to take a new volunteer role at their church. When they sat down with support as a couple they discovered that their perception was not correct. As the discussion continued it turned out that they each had a very different perception, but the truth was somewhere in the middle. Both could have made adjustments to avoid the clash. The practical partner had not taken the time to understand the role and so mistakenly thought the role would be a detriment to their marriage; their impression was that the role would be every week, however it was on a roster and not every week. The emotional partner could have explained the role in more detail, which would have prevented their spouse from having to make assumptions.
Major on the majors.
For another couple both the practical partner and the emotional partner would comment negatively about every action of their spouse. After some discussion with their coach they realised this meant that when an action was required that could have a major negative effect, they could not bring themselves to discuss it because everything had been criticised. They have since learnt that it is important to pick the significant battles. Now when they do react to something they know it must be serious and are open to consider their actions, because they have not reacted negatively to things that have had no real consequence.
Delay addressing the issue.
I was negotiating a real estate purchase on behalf of a buyer. After a long negotiation process agreement was reached on price and conditions and the contracts were exchanged. Several days later the agent contacted me saying that an error had been made and he wanted the buyer to agree to another condition in the contract. However, I informed him that that change should have happened prior to the exchange and the new condition would not be agreed to. The agent reacted very emotionally and criticised the buyer and myself! In this instance I withdrew from the conversation. Several days later the agent rang on another matter. He was calm so after discussing the matter at hand, I said, "Can we go back to Monday night? I was very surprised at your reaction as we had a good relationship during the negotiation." The agent now apologised for the outburst and admitted he had lost his cool because he had made an error. Had I taken exception to the comments in the emotion of the moment it would have been a much more difficult reconciliation.
If you are struggling to manage differences in your relationships, trusted third party input is essential. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange to help you find the balance.