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“But you promised!”
“That was an idea, not a promise!”
“You didn’t follow up on making that airline booking!”
“I’m nowhere near ready to commit to that trip yet!”
It took me decades to work out the root cause of many miscommunications around decision-making in relationships. When you are going through the decision-making process on your own this confusion does not arise. So it can be puzzling that something that is perfectly easy on your own becomes loaded with difficulty with your loved one.
It’s about differences in decision-making styles.
Understanding the decision-making process
All of us go through a decision-making process, from having an initial idea to proceeding to action.
Though the decision-making process might not be visible, we nevertheless all go through the same stages. Some people proceed with lightning speed through all of the stages of decision-making. Sometimes we ricochet forwards and backwards. Some people take a long time to get past a particular stage. Or stages, as you will see.
This is the delicious stage of free-floating impressions, colours and fantasies. Little thoughts nudge right on the edge of your awareness. It is fun to swim in this stage of infinite possibility! You might doodle, or flick through a magazine. This stage of the decision-making process does not feel like decision-making at all!
Lo, something is crystallizing. You are thinking of something specific. For example, a house with a backyard. You might even venture to say to your partner, “I’m thinking I would like a house with a back yard.” Your partner says, “But only a week ago you said how happy you are here.” Yes indeed you did.
3 Development of ideas.
You find yourself thinking about your idea, at any random moment. Your idea gets extended. This stage can take hours or years. Your vision of a house with a back yard has developed and is now situated with mountain views and a warm climate.
4 Reality check.
Could we actually do this? We would have to move! What about the kids schooling? Can we get transfers for work? What about family and social networks? How could we afford this? Well, let’s look into it……
You are now looking at a time-frame, a budget. The process has taken you from speculation to a time-and-space consideration. This takes faith. You are likely to feel a lot of anxiety at this stage. The uncertainty itself is anxiety-provoking. And although you are still planning … you are not yet committed.
6 The Promise/Commitment!
OK, yes, you can now make the public announcement!
But hang on, your partner who has been promoting this all along suddenly has cold feet! “What if…..?”
You dealt with the what-if’s some time back. “But I hate change”, your partner wails. You don’t like change either, but the joy of a new life has carried you over the threshold, and you are ready.
7 Action/doing it.
Well, decision-making took a lot longer than you thought! Or was it quicker than you thought? But here you are, both settling into your new home. “I’m so happy here already – why did I take so long?”
Differences in how you and your partner go through decision-making stages:
You go through these stages, whether the issues is a small one, like what to have for dinner, or huge, like where to live. The differences in decision-making speed really make a difference.
- If you are able to process through these decision-making stages very quickly, you might imagine that your partner is at the promise/commitment stage, when they are really still verbalising daydreams. You need to check: “Is that a promise, or an idea, or a daydream?” Or, you can head off any confusion by saying, “This is just a daydream – so far. No promises.”
- Some people are very concrete in their thinking, and can only relate to a project when it is a developed idea, reality-check, promise and action. Particularly action! As a result, they might be very impatient with the “airy-fairy” quality of daydreams. Could you remind them that a good daydream stage leads to good-quality plans later on!?
- You might be a daydreamer by habit. Your partner might need to say, “I’d like to make some concrete plans around that!”
- Can you identify with these decision-making stages? What have you learned about yourself and your partner’s style, and what problems might be averted with this knowledge?
In order to jointly build a future together, you will need good decision-making skills that turn dreams and visions of the future into reality.
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Copyright © Kaye Gersch 2018.