Beyond Right and Wrong

Thursday, Jul. 22nd 2010 11:16 PM

So I’m dating this guy and he starts making decisions that affect our relationship without consulting with me. These are major decisions, ones that affect the time we spend with each other. It goes beyond just being needy. I felt as though we were soulmates. . . at least I thought we were. . . What would you do?  I could scream . . .


You bring up questions that every individual in a relationship must confront.  You seem to be dealing with how to make decisions in relationship, and how to allocate time spent alone and together.  But above all, the biggest issue you seem to face is how to move beyond finger pointing and blame.  Somehow, you must move beyond asking who’s right and who’s wrong when it comes to these important questions of decision-making and time.

For couples, every decision that either person makes, from crossing the street to traveling the world, affects their relationship.  Different couples deal with the consequences of their decisions in different ways.  For some, it is no big deal if decisions are made without consulting the other person first. Some couples need to confer over everything.  There is a lot of in between, but in general, the issue of a decision made without prior consultation with a partner is no big deal. The real work starts with the way you choose to react to your partner as each decision is made.

Clearly, you are frustrated with the way your partner makes decisions. He may or may not be aware of your frustration, but regardless, you have a choice in how to broach the subject. You can confront him in a way that makes him feel bad, or you can look at it as no big deal and work to understand him better. You get to pick.

The same choice is available when looking at how you all negotiate and navigate the time that you do and do not spend together.  When something affects the time that you all spend with each other, your reaction can become a potential weapon you wield to get your way.  Or you can use a gentle approach, which allows you and your partner to demonstrate love, caring and understanding for each other, by sanctioning the way that he feels that he should use his time.  You might not agree with him, but you can respect his personal space, time and preferences.

Of course, spending good time together is crucial to the success of a relationship.  But there are only so many hours in the day, and time spent independent of one another is also crucial to personal well being.  A valuable question to ask yourself is whose time should be considered the priority and most critical from a personal point of view: his, yours, or ours?  Another way of posing this question, and a more fundamental way of looking at the issue is the following:  “When it comes to your own time and how you spend it, do you decide how to spend it yourself, do you require a joint conversation with him first, or does he get the authority to make decisions about your time?”  The answer to this question can and does vary from person to person.  But it is at the very root of this issue, and both parties should ask themselves this question. Then, the real work begins as you try to understand and accept his stand on this issue.

Here are three different possibilities and outcomes:

  • If you believe that you should be able to make decisions about your time (at a given moment) without discussing the issue with him, and he believes that he can make decisions about his time (at a given moment) without discussing the issue with you, then your relationship may work.  There is no conflict.
  • If you believe that you should be able to make decisions about your time (at a given moment) without discussing the issue with him, and he believes that you should discuss time commitments with him before you make a decision (or vice-versa), then there is a conflict and the relationship with probably not work, long-term.
  • If you believe that you should discuss time commitments with him prior to committing; and if he believes that he should discuss all time commitments with you prior to committing, then the relationship can work.

These scenarios can be transposed, of course, and there are always different circumstances and situations.  In your situation, it seems as though your partner believes that he can make decisions about his time without discussing them with you.  It also sounds like you believe that he should discuss his time commitments with you before making them.  There is a conflict here.

Neither of you are wrong. You may simply be wrong for one another, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that.

On another note, sometimes, because of neediness or fear, or a misguided sense of right and wrong, people stay in relationships that have irreconcilable conflicts like the one described above.  My best advice is to let go of thinking someone is “right” or “wrong” about the way they make decisions or spend time, and look for someone who is “right for you.”  Take the time to find a person whose decision making works with yours.  Have the confidence that that person is out there, and when you meet them or a candidate; be clear and confident enough to voice your preferences without angry expectations, but in a way that seeks understanding.  A naturally good fit beats working towards a good fit any day.  You’ll be free to work towards something else, while enjoying this “working” aspect of your relationship.

Keep rising,

Frank Love

…and please do not multi-task when driving.

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How to Gracefully Exit a Relationship

4 Comments on “Beyond Right and Wrong”

  1. Melissa Says:

    Enjoyed this read! Taking time to find a person whose decision making works with yours is the best advice ever 🙂 I think early on in the courting phase ‘the warm and fuzzies’ leaves most ignoring the little things like CHECKING compatibility on life issues.

  2. Dionne Says:

    So, I understand what you’re saying, but I have to disagree on point 2 of the 3 different possibilities and outcomes – well, I disagree with the outcome. I have a number of friends who went through this issue in their relationships, only to work it out as time went on – a lot of us have issues with control and/or selfishness, which causes us to make decisions the way that we do, and not always considering the other persons time and feelings. I think that this one depends, and can be worked out – but I definitely think that both parties have to be open to asking serious questions – like why does this bother me so much? Most times, its not a simple surface issue, but a deeper issue really cuts into wounds that they may be carrying from previous relationships, etc.

  3. Massander Says:

    Good article! Dawn’s concern could simply be that she wants to spend more time with her man. Why not just let him know that she would like to spend more time with him? Based on his behavior, chances are he is the kind of guy who believes in making decisions without conferring with her first, so the best outcome will likely be from simply asking for what she really wants, i.e. more time with him. Another possibility is that his choices reflect that they don’t have any shared agreement for how the time she’s concerned about would be spent. If she’d like to make plans with him or establish an agreement about the time they do spend together, she could do that as well.

  4. Dia Says:

    Excellent blog….
    In relationships time spent is essential for the health, and growth of your union, but personal time its an absolute must. One needs to keep their identity so the smothering effect won’t take a toll on the relationship. It shouldn’t be a conversation piece each time, just a little mystery will keep it thriving, as well as some spontaneity. Keep in mind, I am female, and I like my freedom of just being me without checking in, a relationship sometimes defines you and they’re times when you don’t wannabe figured out. I totally get it about time spent, but don’t make it scheduled or scripted, until your married and you all heartbeat becomes one…enjoy you, and what makes you, You…..

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