Very few relationships that exist in this world are truly partnership relationships. Most people go their whole lives without ever seeing one as an example of how to live. In many existing marriages, there is the "husband is head of the house" model, and even those who don't espouse that kind of model, really are not egalitarian in nature. Most people in marriage submit to whoever is the strongest in the relationship, in both the husband/wife relationship, the parent/child relationship, and the employee/employer relationship.
Relationships in which one person is in control or in authority while everyone else must submit, is not a healthy relationship. Each person in a relationship needs to feel respected and equal, and have the ability to freely express themselves and have the power to make decisions about their own lives. One person should not have control at the expense of another.
Most people don't realize that it is possible, in ANY human relationship, when there is conflict, for it be be a win-win situation for all parties. We have been reared and taught that everyone can't always have their needs met, that there will be times where we have to compromise. This is NOT the case. It is possible for every person to have their needs met WITHOUT causing someone else to go without theirs. But most people don't have any idea how to do this, or they aren't willing to do what it takes to have that kind of freedom.
Domestic Partner relationships: two partners have worked out who is going to do the dishes on what night of the week. Partner A is doing them Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and Partner B is doing them Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. On Sunday, they eat out, so there are no dishes. On Tuesday evening, Partner A comes home from work , eats dinner, and leaves his dishes in the sink because it is not his night to do them. The next morning, the dishes are still there, and when he gets home from work, he not only has to do Wednesday night dishes because it's his night, but he also has to do the Tuesday night dishes, which were not his responsibility. When Partner B gets home, Partner A wants to discuss the situation.
He COULD say, "Last night was YOUR night for the dishes, and YOU didn't do them." Even though this is a true statement, it leaves Partner B feeling blamed and shamed, and makes him defensive so that he does not want to cooperate, or even discuss the situation. Also, it feels like he is being talked down to, and Partner A is making him feel HE is in control and is trying to shame you into doing what he wants. Blaming and Shaming are two Roadblocks to good communication. So INSTEAD, Partner A says,
"When I come home and find dishes in the sink from the night before, and I have to do them in addition to my dishes from that night, I feel frustrated and disrespected."
Notice that Partner A did NOT use the word YOU. When you use the word YOU when talking to someone else, you immediately put them on the defensive. Instead, talk about yourself and how the situation affects you, using the words I, me or mine.
By focusing on how you feel and how the problem concretely affects you, instead of preaching to the other person, you take the pressure off and allow the person to see things from your side. Then, allow the other person to respond.
Partner B says: "I got home really late and was very tired. Then I had to get up extra early to get that presentation ready for work. It didn't seem like I had enough time, and I was feeling very stressed."
Partner A then shows that he understand's Partner B's dilemma by repeating back to him exactly what he said in just a slightly different form. It shows that he was listening, and that he understands Partner B's feelings. He says, "So you've been having a really hard time at work? I didn't know that. You've been feeling stressed even after you get home at night?"
Partner B says "Yes, all I was thinking about last night was going to sleep, it's the only thing that helps relieve the stress."
Partner A says, "So, doing the dishes sometimes makes you feel stressed too?"
Partner B says "Yes, sometimes."
Partner A says "So we have something in common. We both feel stressed about the dishes."
Partner B says "I guess so. But I didn't realize that my not doing them was affecting you so strongly. I'll try harder to get them done in the future."
Partner A says "I really appreciate that. And, if you are having a really stressful day, let's sit down and talk about it. Maybe we can find another solution, like maybe we could just eat out that night so neither of us has to do the dishes."
Partner B says "Yes, that might work. But what if we don't have money to eat out?"
Partner A says "Then just let me know how you are feeling. If I KNOW that you are feeling upset or stressed, I would be more understanding about switching nights with you or finding some other solution."
Partner B says "Thanks, I really appreciate that. I will do my best to stick to my nights in the future, but when I can't, I'll let you know how I am feeling so we can decide what to do. How's that?"
Notice the format of how Partner A phrased his initial statement to Partner B
His statement had three basic parts:
Stated the problem: dishes in the sink from the night before
How it made him feel: frustrated and disrespected
What the concrete effect was: had to do the dishes myself
You can put these three components in any order that makes sense, as long as you don't use the word YOU to describe the problem. This is called a Three-part I Statement.
So what are the steps?
Use a three part "I" statement to describe the problem, without using "you"
Allow the other person to respond.
Reflect back to the other person what was said, so they know you understand their feelings
Allow them to respond again.
Allow them to respond as many times as are necessary for them to explain or completely express their feelings, so they feel they have been heard.
If the other person does not offer their own solution, say "What do you think we can do about this problem? Then be silent and let the other person figure out a solution.
NEVER tell the other person what to do, even if you are a parent and the other person is a child. This makes the other person feel like you don't think they are smart enough to figure out a solution, and it actually does prevent you from hearing some really creative solutions that the other person might have. Make the other person search for a solution, because when they have found one, they are much more motivated to carry it out if THEY thought of it.
YOU don't like to be told what to do....so don't do the same thing to someone else. Children especially respond well to being treated like a partner and having their ideas respected.
It takes practice to learn to respond to others without immediately using the word "you" and using roadblocks to good communications. But if you begin to practice the mechanics of partnership relationships, you will receive untold benefits from it.
Every human relationship needs to be a partnership, especially between parents and children, romantic relationships, and family relationships. Having a partnership relationship is the only way you can really show that you respect the people in your life.
In addition to showing the people in your life how you respect them through your communication, it is good to avoid forms of relationships that are repressive. Traditional marriage, in and of itself, is a repressive institution.
To learn about the history, purpose, and need for change in marriage, CLICK HERE.
Traditional parent/child relationships are also often repressive because children are often treated disrespectfully. To learn about healthy parent-child relationships, CLICK HERE.