How to Reach Mutual Solutions in Your Relationship

We don’t argue. We don’t compromise. We don’t suppress our feelings. And we always find a solution to issues that works for both of us. Unlikely as that may sound, it’s been true for the dozen years we’ve known each other, and we’ve spent a lot of time examining why.

It’s because there are multiple outcomes that would satisfy us; we can’t see them at first because we are staring at our metaphorical strawberry ice cream. There are more flavors in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy.

The first step is not to be stubborn, and to accept that there are always other possibilities that we haven’t seen yet. Locking onto a single solution is a kind of identity panic. We are more than our desires and ideas, but our ego wants to cling to the current ones as if they are the only items of clothing in the wardrobe, and to let go of them would leave us naked in front of the world. Relax. There are plenty of other clothes to wear.

The next step is to understand that what we want, although it seems so clear to us, can often be satisfied, expanded or changed from our original idea.

Looking at our surface want and the images we get when thinking of it, and then speaking about that does several things. It gives our partner information about why we hold that position or have that need. What may be obvious to us is often unclear to someone else. Speaking in this way is an act of intimacy that brings us closer together – the opposite of what happens when people argue. Additionally, what we say may come as a surprise to us as well; we often only see our desire and not the reasons behind it.

With that expanded understanding, each of us can come up with other possibilities that fit our own needs and might possibly work for our partner, too. These ideas provide new material for both partners to work with and to look at the deeper wants that each have. By continuing to share in this way, we deepen in intimacy and knowledge of both ourselves and our partner until we find a solution that works for both of us. We have arrived at it without argument, without compromise and without suppressing our feelings.

Below is an excerpt from an article we wrote for Together Magazine that illustrates this process:

Maude: I’d like to go somewhere rural so I feel like I’m away from everything.
Phil: I’m imagining a small coastal town so we can take beach walks and grab a pizza when we’re hungry.
Maude: I’d rather be somewhere that is totally different than what we experience daily [we already live in a coastal town].
Phil: Okay. I don’t want to be miles from anywhere where we’re short of supplies, but I do like the sense of getting away from it all. I can also get that feeling if we go to a strange town where we don’t know anyone.
Maude: Somehow I want the feel of a completely different environment. We could buy supplies and snuggle in.
Phil: That sounds like crumbs all over the bed. We’d need a kitchenette for three nights.
Maude: An AirBnB would probably work.
Phil: Let’s see what we can find on AirBnB. (We look together.) Oh, here’s a private one in the woods, yet only five miles to Trader Joe’s. But I still really want to be near the beach.
Maude: Well, look, there’s Montana De Oro State Park on the coast not too far away. My friend mentioned going there recently and it sounds just like what you were describing you wanted. We could do a day trip there.
Phil: Perfect! I’ve never been there and you know how I love exploring new trails. Let’s book it. I’m getting excited now.

It is important to add that you both have to have the same core values. When this is so, by digging deep enough, you can always find agreement. If not, then you have a core disagreement that will often be fatal to finding mutual solutions. We have written extensively on core values elsewhere.

Don't argue; you can always find a solution that works for both of you #relationships #quotes Click To TweetWe have found that by using many of the techniques available to all of us, it is possible to participate in an almost magical experience which we call finding mutual solutions. This sounds quite mundane on the surface, However, when actually practiced, it produces a result which is truly beyond anything either partner could predict or come up with themselves. We have outlined this simple process in our book How Two: Have a Successful Relationship.

When you have an issue to resolve, if you start with a clear understanding that you are both on the same side and seeking a resolution that works for both of you, your separate identities fade into the background and a merged self, the “we” if you will, comes to the fore. The surprising aspect of this “we” self is that it knows things and can find directions that are not coming from either of you individually. You arrive at an answer that is the result of each of you combined with the other. It is not a compromise where either or both of you gave up something to get something else. It is new, and encompasses the thoughts and knowledge that each of you has contributed about what you would like and what your partner will enjoy, appreciate and desire.

Another striking dynamic of finding mutual solutions is that the more you experience this, the better you will get at stepping aside and letting the merged self find your answers. The more you do this, the more pleasurable it will be, and the more you will be drawn to this process as well as the wonderful and surprising results this method produces.

We invite you to enter the unity of your relationship and from this place to steer your course together. The result of this practice is an abiding sense of peace that becomes the foundation for your relationship.

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3 comments on “How to Reach Mutual Solutions in Your Relationship
  1. Lynelle Paulick says:

    Hi P & M!

    Another super-powerful post! Compromise–how we just don’t see past the need for compromise, as though it’s just like death and taxes. Remember Woody Allen’s quote???

  2. Jinjee says:

    I love the deeper level of sharing a new layer of how this process of mutual decision making happens for you guys. This level of detail is like a useful set of instructions for a part of the process I wasn’t sure I could envision: “Looking at our surface want and the images we get when thinking of it, and then speaking about that does several things. It gives our partner information about why we hold that position or have that need.” — it can feel difficult to admit my petty wants and needs, but it’s not a bad thing – and can be quite helpful to a partner who is also committed to us both being happy in our relationship.
    Jinjee recently posted..What to eatMy Profile

    • Maude says:

      I am so glad that this post has been helpful! Try not to judge yourself. You can have wants and needs, we all can. As long as we stay flexible and remember, in the relationship you are both on the same side and looking for something that works for both of you.

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