It’s resolution week on Hot, Holy & Humorous! Meaning I’ve been covering goals we should make in 2020—for ourselves, our marriages, and our sex lives. Today, let’s talk about a common pitfall we want to avoid going forward.
A Personal Story
My husband has been rearranging in the kitchen lately. For years, I’ve been the one mostly deciding where and how things belong in our drawers and cabinets. If someone in the family didn’t follow my plan, no worries—I was the one home far more than they were, so I’d just fix the error while they were gone and move on.
Cue a change in my husband’s employment, and now he’s home a lot and moving things around. Of course I’ve handled this all beautifully…
Okay, FINE. I’ve huffed, eye-rolled, and lodged several complaints about the equilibrium of my kitchen being upended!
Spock has his reasons for wanting the changes, and now he was finally around enough to make those changes happen. Meanwhile, I have my reasons for wanting things to stay the same, and I’d already established a system! At some point, it seemed to come down to a silent battle over how a particular set of glasses would be placed in the cabinet. He’d put a glass away and change their positioning to his way (“the wrong way”), and later I’d see them and change them all back to my way (“the right way”).
Yeah, because that’s not causing any tension in our marriage. #sarcasm
But a day or two ago, I was staring at that cabinet of glasses and thinking: I should just let him have his way. Wouldn’t that be the nice thing to do? Then I had an even better thought: What if there’s some way to address each of our reasonable concerns about these glasses with an entirely different approach?
Turns out, there is. I mentioned my idea to my husband, we talked about that alternative, and it will be implemented.
Before you go thinking I have no business ever writing about marriage because I nearly declared World War III over the storage of drinking glasses, the actual amount of time and emotion expended on our kitchen issue was probably mere minutes. And hey, we did resolve it!
I’m only telling this story to illustrate a pitfall we often have in marriage. A husband and wife engage in back-and-forth debate, argument, or even stalemate when the resolution doesn’t have to be you or me—it could be us.
In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey labels this principle “Think Win/Win.” He talks about how Lose/Win or Win/Lose outcomes are appropriate at times:
If you value a relationship and the issue isn’t really that important, you may want to go for Lose/Win in some circumstances to genuinely affirm the other person. “What I want isn’t as important to me as my relationship with you. Let’s do it your way this time.” …
There are circumstances in which you would want to Win, and you wouldn’t be highly concerned with the relationship of that win to others. If your child’s life were in danger, for example, you might be peripherally concerned about other people and circumstances. But saving that life would be supremely important.
Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
But in most situations, Lose/Win or Win/Lose creates more conflict or feelings of resentment or trust issues in a relationship. It’s much better to look for a Win/Win.
While Covey’s book is aimed at business leaders, he notes how much more important this principle is in marriage: “‘Who’s winning in our marriage?’ is a ridiculous question. If both people aren’t winning, both are losing.”
Who’s Winning in Your Marriage?
My father used to tell the joke that married couples promise to become one—and then spent the rest of their marriage figuring out which one to become. That joke’s funny because of how ridiculous it sounds. And yet, how often do a spouse’s actions convey that’s what they secretly believe?
In the realm of sexual intimacy, spouses can end up playing tug-of-war over frequency, repertoire, etc. The mindset becomes “if you get what you want, I don’t get what I want. But if I get what I want, you don’t get what you want.” If those are the only two options, one spouse will become the Win/Lose mate and the other will be the Lose/Win mate. But then nobody’s really winning.
If you’re always or often winning your way, or if you’re always or often giving in, you’re likely losing the intimacy of marriage. Much better for both of you to get a win.