Out With the Competition, In With the Cooperation and Love
From Dr. Jane Greer: Marriage & Family Therapist, Author, Radio Host:
As the Chinese New Year begins, we are leaving the Tiger behind and moving into the Year of the Rabbit. Just as the animals themselves indicate, that hopefully means moving away from harshness and competition in your love life and moving toward becoming a gentler you so that you can be happy with your partner. Instead of being angry about what you aren’t getting or what your partner isn’t doing for you, pay attention to what he is giving in the relationship that you can build on. Focus on the positives you share, so that instead of being burning mad and fighting all the time, you can keep your passion hot and choose to hop into bed.
Here is how to begin to do that. First of all, it is important to realize that every time there are two people involved, there are always going to be competing needs to some extent. He wants to ski every weekend, you want to stay home. He wants to keep the thermostat low because he can’t sleep when it’s hot, but you’re freezing and want to keep it high. Those recurring conflicts in a relationship are what I call "selfish hot spots," and everybody has them. We all want what we want, so how do you decide who should get their way? And when you don’t get what you want, you often become upset with your partner because it seems he is thinking only about himself. Then you wind up feeling resentful, deprived and can’t help but ask, “What about me?” As Valentine’s Day is approaching, you can start to think about giving the gift that money can’t buy: consideration, when you make room for your partner’s needs and find a way to compromise.
Instead of thinking and acting in terms of who is getting more, realize you are both in it together, that you are on the same team as allies, not opponents. If that means taking care of a household, starting a life together or just beginning a relationship, bring in cooperative spirit so you both pool your resources, get things accomplished and achieve your goals. If it seems you’re doing more at times, it’s likely he’s handling things you might not be aware of. You want to stop measuring everything and keeping score, because it will only make you angry and that will take away from your desire. Remember that things do balance out over time, and it all comes out in the wash. Also, if you can stop trying to prove that you are right, while your partner tries to prove that he is right, and instead realize that neither of you is wrong or right but that something went wrong in your communication itself, you will be able to figure out how to avoid crossing those wires in the future.
Of course, anger is real. There are very few relationships where anger doesn’t come into play. Go with heart talk, which is when you use your anger constructively to focus on what you can change for the better in the future so it doesn’t keep happening, rather than hurt talk, which is lashing out, blaming and criticizing. That is destructive and takes you nowhere. So as the New Year settles in, if you have the urge to attack like a tiger, instead approach the conflict with a bunny in mind and give your partner a carrot so you can get his caring in return.
About Dr. Jane Greer:
Dr. Jane Greer is a nationally known marriage and family therapist with a thriving private practice for over 20 years. Her new book, "What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship," is published by Sourcebooks. Visit her website.