Practicing Scales With Your Partner

This month, the theme for couples emerged as self-disclosure — how we become known to one another — that is, intimacy. How well do we share who we are and then negotiate from there? Many of us struggle with disclosing how important things are to us. So this month, I am suggesting a look at the very simple concept of a 0-10 scale.

When expressing yourself to your partner, try expressing how important the issue/event is to you on a 0-10 scale and assist your partner in expressing the same by being curious about their inner-world. Stan Dale, used to say that you could say the word “intimacy,” this way: “In-to-me-you-see.” Being transparent is certainly a large part of intimacy and being known by another person.

For example, if I want to go see the film, The Incredibles, and it’s a 9 in importance/desire to me, and my partner wants to see Alexander (most likely to gaze at Colin Farrel with blonde hair) and she says it’s a 5 for her, then it’s pretty easy to agree to go to the movie I want this time.

The goal is to make sure we each know how strong the desire/feeling is for both of us so we can negotiate for a win-win.

Let’s imagine that I want to go to go for a walk on my day off and I don’t communicate that it’s a strong 10 for me and she is sounding insistent about working in the yard. If we don’t use a number, I may interpret her intensity of wanting to do yard work as a 10 and not get what I want. It may be that she just really wanted to be outside, and in nature, and a walk would have been fine, or we could have made a list of yard work and we could have agreed on another day to do it, or a shorter walk and some yard work.

Also (and this is common and very important to watch out for), if I don’t tell her what is important to me, I may end up holding a resentment because I didn’t get to do what I wanted. This is pretty common for those of us that tend to avoid conflict and are prone to accommodation/adaptation in relationships. We turn into tight balls of resentment. And later we whine or even explode about how we never get what we want.

My goal here is to get you thinking about what you say, and what don’t say, and to be sure you both have a clear way of communicating your level of desire. This can reduce the number of misunderstandings through using a simple scaling technique. And it’s free!

Of course, if we have dissimilar desires and they are both the same level of importance, then we have some important communication to complete, and negotiation skills come into play in a big way. That’s another article, which I may do later. Suffice it to say that it would have to do with staying in the feelings realm, and using empathy and compassion to help decide what would best be a win-win for us.

Thanks to the couples that helped bring this issue to light.


Copyright © 2004 Russell Wilkie, MFT

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