Learning Proper Negotiation, Part 3

How can you properly manage an unreasonable and/or resistant spouse during a negotiation?

When you’re negotiating with your spouse, it is assumed that things haven’t been going so well and you’re negotiating because you both can’t find common ground. Negotiation is reserved for major problems and issues that can literally crack a marriage in half.

Instead of choosing the “easy” path of arguing with your spouse until he/she gives in to your demands or storms out on you, I advise troubled couples to set aside their raw emotions and differences so they can rediscover common interests on the negotiation table.

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Negotiation is a more peaceful and sustainable way of finding great solutions to big problems.

What things can get in the way of a successful negotiation?

Unfortunately, there will be times when even your best efforts at negotiating with your spouse will not produce mutually beneficial results.

Below are some of the major obstacles that can get in the way of a successful negotiation, in general.

1. Your Spouse Holds Many Aces – It’s no secret that in some relationships, only one person holds the “aces” like ownership of the car, house and being a major contributor to the family’s finances. It can be easy for such a person to dominate his/her spouse because of his/her overall contributions to the marriage and to the family in general.

If your spouse has a tendency to dismiss your needs and desires because he/she has a much bigger hold on the family’s finances and other vital components that keep your marriage moving forward, you may be tempted to just lash out or get aggressive just to be heard.

This approach may sound attractive to some people but in my analysis, it will only cause more problems as it would somehow reinforce the idea that you shouldn’t be allowed to make decisions because you’re not coming from a logical premise (e.g. raw emotions vs. logical decision making).

Instead of resorting to arguing, use the mutual benefit model instead. Here’s an example of this type of scenario:

James and Janie have been together for many years and they have 3 kids that are all school age. James was laid off several years ago and was unable to find decent work so he chose to stay home and take care of the kids.

Janie had a regular, well-paying job so she was able to support everyone in the family. However, in recent months James wanted to acquire new skills. He wanted Janie to pay for a certification course so that he could become a board-certified counselor.

Janie had developed a very black and white view of where money should go and flatly refused to support James or pay his tuition fee. James felt trapped and he didn’t have any savings – Janie had control of their finances.

His only choice if Janie didn’t support his new dream was to get a part-time job so that he could somehow scrape together enough cash to pay for night classes.

Instead of getting aggressive during dialogues, James used this option to seek Janie’s help again: “If you’re not going to support my studies then I’m not going to force you to do so. Just let me get a part time job so that I can pay for it myself. Bear in mind however, that you will have to cover for me here at home when I’m away working and studying.”

Janie finally realizes that she’s not going to be in a very convenient position when James finds a job to pay for his certification course and finally dips into their reserves.

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2. Your Spouse Flatly Refuses – Sometimes people just disagree and they freeze the dialogue so that the other party won’t be able to add more input. If your negotiation is falling short because of a flat refusal from the other party, you’re dealing with what is called “internal objections”.

What’s an internal objection?

An internal objection is a form of resistance that is not expressed or put out into the open for scrutiny.

Internal resistance from both parties often mars problematic marriages, chiefly because no one likes arguing and it’s easier to hide objections than to express them. You can end this trend by gently asking your spouse about his/her decision.

Simple statements like “I really don’t understand why you are refusing, could you please tell me more about what you’re thinking right now?” The goal is to draw out your spouse’s genuine feedback so you can both find some common ground again.

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