Mark Goulston, M.D.
Establish ground rules that you and your partner agree are more important than either of you being right. That way, you can defer to those rules, rather than getting caught in endless battles of which one of you has to be right.
What are some tips to having a positive relationship? How do we deal with problems that we’re going to face early in our marriage? Well, I think that you should learn the lesson from a good friend of mine who in his third marriage and is finally getting it right. I asked him, “What is the secret to getting it right?” He said, “Here’s the key: Come up with ground rules for disagreements, which are inevitable, but also come up with ground rules that both of you respect the other more than feeling the need to win an argument.”
He said, “In my former marriages, there were so many times when either I had to be right or my ex-spouse had to be right, and we would engage in a scorch earth, take no prisoners, debate that got really ugly. So, in my present relationship, what we’d agreed upon ahead of time is that no one will hurl words like, ‘you always’ or ‘you never’. Also, if someone needs a timeout from the conversation and leaves, then we have a ground rule that you don’t leave the other person staying up all night, cursing you, while you just fall asleep like a beached whale. So the rule was that even if you need a break, because you need a timeout, before the night is over, we talk about it and resolve things.”
He continued, “Additionally, one of that has served us best is that we agree that if we don’t come up with a solution within 24 hours, we drop it. Because what we realize is, the need to be right is what killed our former relationships.”
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