This is the first of a two part series on two fundamental principles which underlie a successful marriage.
I discuss the first principle in this post and the second principle in two weeks.
If you google successful marriage, you will find links including:
- If you do what you always do, you will get same result
- Change your mind, change your marriage.
- Marriage is often about fighting the battle between your ears.
- A crisis doesn’t mean the marriage is over.
- Laugh always. Go ahead, fart in bed. …
- Respect one another. …
- Don’t go to bed angry. …
- Check your ego at the door.
- Tell your spouse that you’re thankful for having him or her in your life
- Make time for you two as a couple
- Plan for some personal time
- Understand that it’s ok to disagree
- Build trust
- Learn to forgive
All of these points are important, worthy of consideration, and, if implemented, would contribute to maintaining a successful marriage.
Indeed, maintaining a good attitude, building trust, and practicing good communication skills, forgiveness and mutual respect, are critical contributors to a successful marriage.
But, I believe these lists are incomplete as there are at least two fundamental principles which underlie, provide a context for, give rise to and strengthen each item on these lists.
The two Principles…
I. Steven Covey’s 5th habit of highly successful people:
Seek first to understand and then to be understood.
II. The Basic Relationship Rule:
Everyone always does the best they can (in their relationships) given their Psychological State, their Model of the world and their Skill Sets.
I. SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND AND THEN TO BE UNDERSTOOD
The critical element here is the counterintuitive suggestion that each partner, in a conflict, focus their attention on their partner before they present or defend your own needs.
This principle is counterintuitive because, when we are faced with conflict, our first reaction is to defend ourselves.
Indeed, each partner might maintain that their needs are equally as important as their partner’s and should not be ignored or subordinated (deemed less important or valuable) to those of other partner.
And, each partner would be correct.
But, this is not what the principle is advocating.
It is important to note that I am making an assumption. In the context of a successful marriage, both partners are committed…
- to each other,
- to the marriage, and
- to themselves
So, what does Seek first to understand and then to be understood mean in the context of maintaining a successful marriage?
The principle advocates that you attempt to focus on your partner’s needs BEFORE you focus on your own.
Again, I must point out that you are neither ignoring nor demeaning your own needs in any way!
When you focus on understanding what your partner is trying to communicate, you accomplish three important goals.
- First if all, you communicate that you care about your partner and that he, or she, is important to you. This, ultimately can strengthen your relationship and contribute to resolving the conflict.
- Secondly, you have gained important knowledge about your partner that may contribute to more open communication as your relationship grows.
- Thirdly, you may find that you are able to resolve the conflict with an intervention that doesn’t even involve your immediate needs. In this case, it becomes a win-win proposition.
It is also important to note that you have not lost anything. You still have the option of returning to your needs and working to insure that what is important to you gets the validation that is needed.
I discuss the second principle in my next post on April 6.