We recently worked with a couple who had just completed a relatively demanding experiential activity that required significant teamwork and communication. They had some bad moments during the activity, falling back into old patterns of behavior and both of them were feeling upset with themselves and each other.
This couple had felt that the activity in which they were participating had to look a certain way; that to be deemed a success they had to accomplish certain things in specific ways in a certain sequence–and they disagreed about some of the ways and sequences.
The couple allowed the desire to be right and to force things to look a certain way to overwhelm principles and skills such as kindness, mutual perspective, patience, accountability, and communication. They bickered and demanded and moved back and forth between being passive and aggressive and in the process gummed up both their activity and their relationship.
As we helped them process and learn from the experience we shared with them one of the key “secrets” of successful relationships: Never place external results above the relationship.
Certainly we all want to find good solutions to the various obstacles and challenges we face in our lives and families, but we often get caught up in the need for solutions Right Now and sacrifice our relationship along the way.
In the future when you and your partner are facing one of life’s challenges, make certain that as you begin seeking solutions that you both agree that the relationship comes first and that your communication and problem solving processes will be based primarily on the goal of strengthening your relationship, with an immediate solution being a secondary goal. Sometimes the solution might take a little longer to discover and implement, but as you show mutual respect and patience, and exercise healthy communication skills, you will build the trust and safety of your marriage AND find better solutions as a result.
As you always place the relationship over any external results you are seeking, you will be able to have your cake and eat it too.