What is a true choice and what makes it special to offer true choices?
A true choice is one in which all possible options are appreciated and no decision made leads to negative consequences, repercussions or rebuttals.
If you express sadness, frustration, or disappointment as a result of your partner making a “wrong” decision by withdrawing, distancing yourself, or refraining from doing kind things for the other person, you have created a choice that is not a true choice; you created a dilemma for the other person.
That may sound counterintuitive because even when you offer true choices, you likely have a preference for the answer you want to hear.
If person A asks person B what restaurant they want to go to, that may be a true choice.
But what IF there IS a clear preference…
- What if person A gives you a choice between two restaurants, one of which is known to be their favorite?
- What if you’re in bed and request that your partner turn off the light?
- What if person A initiates sex?
- What if a wife requests that her husband fill up her car?
- What if person A requests that person B do the laundry, wash the dishes, vacuum the house, or clean up the yard?
In each of those instances, the person presenting the option has a clear preference.
So, despite the preference, how can you still offer true choices?
The key is not to hide emotions or preferences, because authenticity is the foundation of every healthy relationship.
The secret is to express the preference, to express one’s emotions about the choice made AND to express COMPASSION for the choice made.
What does that look like?
- The first step is to manage one’s expectations before offering the choice and only offer the choice if it is a true choice.
- When your partner makes a decision that does not meet your preferences, be mindful of it, acknowledge your initial emotions (sadness, disappointment, frustration) and then shift your focus to noticing how appreciating their choice is an opportunity to make them feel appreciated, make them feel safe, be relevant to them and elevate the relationship.
Making them feel safe can be crucial, especially if your relationship is in trouble. It is simple to express disapproval in the hope that the partner will act in accordance with your preferences the next time. The exact opposite is true. It actually decreases the likelihood of your partner meeting your needs, or if they do, it comes at the expense of harming the relationship.
But what if my preference is extremely important to me and I require them to comply? How can I persuade them to do it?
You can’t if you don’t want to impair the relationship.
All you can do in communication is increase the likelihood that your preference will be met.
- Be vulnerable with confidence. Tell them why it is so important to you
- Ask in a way that shifts to odds towards your preference being met. For example: “Would you be so kind to…. For me?” “It would mean a lot to me if you could…” “I would love it if you…” “Would it be possible by any means to…?
What if you can’t offer true choices? What if they are violating a boundary of yours and you need them to stop?
- Then don’t phrase it as a choice. That would just confuse them. Ask them to do what you need them to, politely and clearly. “Please give me some space and allow me to finish in the bathroom. For a moment, I need to be alone/ have my privacy.”
- What if they don’t follow?
- State how it makes you feel. If they belittle or marginalize your feelings, don’t defend yourself but state your feelings again using the same words. (Person A: “It is disrespectful to me to not follow my wish for privacy in the bathroom. It makes me sad that you stay in here although I asked you to give me some privacy for a few minutes” – Person B: scoffs “iT mAKeS YoU FeEl sAd?” – Person A; “Yes, it does make me sad. Can you please give me some privacy for a few minutes?”)
- Take action to prevent it from happening again (not punishing them) For example, lock the bathroom door when you need your privacy.
- “But I should not have to do that!!!!” – Yes and no. You have a conflict of values and either value is self-explanatory for the respective self and both partners have integrity around theirs. Partner A has no problem when person B is in the bathroom with them, Partner B needs their privacy in the bathroom and would never enter while partner A is busy. For Partner A, sharing the bathroom in ANY situation is a sign of intimacy. For partner B sharing the bathroom in certain situations has nothing to do with intimacy but is only a disgusting process that diminishes the desire for intimacy. There is no right or wrong.
Are you curious if I can help you? I am curious about that, too. Book a discovery call.
Or read about how the power of reciprocity can work for or against your relationship.