I Do. I Don’t (Part II)

Keys to effective communication

Having a shared vision is the door to harmony and communication is the key. If you haven’t broached the subject of retirement lifestyle with your significant other, here are some tips that may help:

  1. Don’t assume you know what your partner wants no matter how well you think you know each other.  After 35 years of serving green beans, my husband casually mentioned at dinner one night he doesn’t like them.  When I asked why he’d never told me, he said simply, “You never asked.”    Ask.
  2. Be realistic.  Stick to facts and avoid “shoulds.”  Stay out of the past and what was or wasn’t done and focus on what you have to work with now and into the future.
  3. Be honest.  If you are feeling bitter or resentful, it needs to be expressed but in a constructive way. No cheap shots or personal attacks.
  4. Be respectful.  Starting a sentence with “You” automatically signals a potential attack (particularly if the next word is “always” or “never”) and the defense shields go up. Communication is improved when you use “I” statements such as “I think, I want, I need______(fill in the blank), and then ask, “What do you think? What do you want?”  Really listen to your partner’s point of view.  Repeat it back until they acknowledge you’ve understood correctly then reverse the process.  Many times we begin formulating our response and shut down listening before our partner really gets to the main point. In my opinion, the skill of listening is in very short supply these days.
  5. Accept each other’s differences.  You are not going to change at this age and neither is your partner.  Focus on the positives. Create a mental list of the things you love the most about your partner and hold it in your mind’s eye as you talk.
  6. Work towards a win-win and avoid the right/wrong dichotomy. Remember that you are part of a team and if either of you loses, the team also loses. Instead of being adversaries, work together to find mutually satisfying solutions. I’ve heard people say, “You can be right or you can be married.”  Words to live by.
  7. Get creative. The key here is compromise, not capitulation.  Saying “yes” to something you really don’t want to do can lead to resentment that erodes your relationship.  One couple I knew solved their travel differences very effectively. She wanted to see the world and he wanted to stay home and fish.  She found a women’s travel group geared for adventure and enjoyed many exotic trips with the friends she met there while he stayed home to fish.  Both got what they wanted by being open with each other.  A win-win.

Food for thought:

  • What’s your vision for life after work? 
  • Is it shared by your partner or spouse? 
  • Do you have other solutions that have worked for you?

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