Sarah and I have stopped using a certain question.  Until recently, we did not realize how it damaged our relationship.  When we began to be partners, we quickly learned that these words had to go.  What is the question?

“YOU WANT TO….?”

Or some variant of “What do you want?”

Here are some examples:

  • “You want to go for a walk?”
  • “What do you want to do?”
  • “You want to watch a movie?”
  • “Want to get up early and exercise tomorrow morning?”
  • Or the one that always seems to be slipping out of our mouths, “What do you feel like having for dinner?”

Instead, start making plans by coming from what you want

“What do you want?” is generally a nice thing to ask.  So how can it be damaging?  Because when we ask these questions, we are not being honest about what we want.  In other words, we are willing to give up or compromise on what we want so that we will be accepted, loved, cared-for, or any form of not being rejected.

Asking what the other person prefers is a good thing.  We’re supposed to be thoughtful of other people’s wants, especially those we love.  But it cannot be one-sided.  Only being concerned with what the other person wants is as detrimental as being concerned with only what we want.

PARTNERSHIP IS BOTH COMING FROM ‘I WANT’

Partnership is where both partners get what they want and need through agreements as opposed to control or demands (See Partnership Cannot Exist In the Presence of Control).  It’s basically relationship by negotiation.

For instance, I say what I want.  Then Sarah says what she wants (or vice versa).  If they differ, then we discuss it until we find a solution that satisfies both of us.  Therefore, we’re always satisfied with the plan (It’s not brain science here.)  We human beings are happy when we come to an agreement.  We may not get exactly what we want, but through this process of a loving negotiation, we are happy with the end deal.

Here’s a quick example:

Sarah and I often go for evening walks, either on the beach or around our neighborhood.  One particular evening I asked, “You want to go for a walk?”

Truthfully, I wanted to go for a walk.  Deep down, I know I’m only asking her because I want to give her what she wants, even at my own expense; an old bad habit that has never worked well in my relationships.

But at this point, I’ve given the power to her to make the decision.  If she said, “No,” then I had to stay home or go by myself.  We would have both been unsatisfied by this outcome.  I wouldn’t have gotten to go with her and Sarah wouldn’t have known how to support me in what I wanted.

Try this instead:

Realizing my error in using this entrapping question, I quickly rephrased it.

“I want to go for a walk with you.  Do you need anything to make that happen?” I asked.

“Would love to,” she said.  “Give me 15 minutes to finish up what I’m doing and get a jacket.”

“Perfect,” I said.

Partnership is empowerment.

The entire discussion and negotiation was that simple!  With this simple change of words, we both remained empowered and satisfied.  Coming from “I want…” is an empowering phrase.  Knowing how this differs from a ‘normal’ relationship question will lead to long-lasting love, fulfillment and satisfaction between two people.

There’s actually more going on underneath this question.  I’ll explore that in tomorrow’s post, The Question That Kills Relationships Part II.

Thank you so much for reading!

Love, Chris Enni – Partnership and Love

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