Disagreements are a normal and accepted component of any relationship. After all, no two individuals are going to agree on everything. But if you plan for the times when you and your partner won’t see eye to eye – and create some rules for engagement – you may be able to keep those disagreements from turning into full-blown arguments.
I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with world-renowned motivational speaker and bestselling author Willie Jolley (also known as “The Comeback King” for helping Ford Motor Co. avoid accepting bail-out money during the recession). In our conversation, he shared two nuggets of relationship wisdom from his successful 26-year marriage:
- “It is important for individuals in relationships to establish rules for disagreeing and conflict,” and
- “You and your partner must be able and willing to talk about everything.”
The Jolleys’ rules for disagreements are that he cannot yell at her, and she cannot threaten to leave him. “And with these rules in place,” he explained, “I can count the number of arguments we have had on one hand.” Now, that sounds like the relationship foundation of two people who are committed to staying together.
We all want to be accepted for who we are and what we do. I can’t think of any exceptions. But sometimes our fears keep us from revealing our authentic selves, even to the people closest to us, so we hide and even lie – neither of which is particularly healthy in long-term romantic partnerships. Jolley clearly has a fear related to his wife leaving him. And she has a fear related to being yelled at – possibly by anyone, but specifically by her husband. But because they are open about their fears and “willing and able to talk about everything,” they have taken steps to unburden each other of those respective concerns in their relationship.
Each of us also has certain emotional triggers that can escalate a simple disagreement into a knock-down, drag-out, up-all-night fight – like yelling (e.g., Jolley’s wife), having someone walk out (Jolley), cussing, eye rolling, or even certain words or phrases (e.g., “crazy” or “shut up”). But if you and your partner are clear with each other up front about what really gets your blood boiling, and if you can negotiate an environment in which you avoid triggering each other whenever possible, you may be able to keep potentially-explosive conversations in a rational (and helpful) place, rather than an emotional one.
So, accept your desire for acceptance, and embrace your partner’s. Let your mate know that you will not do whatever makes him/her uncomfortable (as long as this doesn’t compromise who you are), and everyone wins. Having a partner who is comfortable enough to be open, vulnerable and authentic is a good sign that you are a Powerful Person in a Partnership.
P.S. Want to hear more from Jolley? Check out his show at 5:50 a.m. on WHUR (FM 96.3) and at 6:39 a.m. on WUSA (Channel 9) in Washington, D.C. Or, tune in to his broadcast on Sirius/XM Radio on Saturdays from 2 to 4 p.m. and Sunday mornings from 7 to 9 a.m. on Channel 128 – The Power! And visit www.williejolley.com to sign up for his newsletter (you’ll get a free interview from his Sirius/XM show as a gift!)
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