“Let’s spend some time together. I know you love surfing and I don’t want to take that away from you. But I would love to spend a little quality time with you. How about going out to dinner or having a picnic at the beach tonight?”
It’s easy to manipulate someone into spending more time with you, but you won’t enjoy your time together using guilt and complaints to coerce him or her to do so. You want your partner to be fully present and appreciate spending time with you. So entice your partner with a positive suggestion. Remember that it’s an opportunity to spend time together not a burden. You will be more effective if you show compassion while reminding him how important it is for you to enjoy time together.
Balancing individual pursuits and togetherness
It’s important to balance spending time together with pursuing your passions. Brain research shows that desire and passion for your partner fades if you spend all your time together. However, if you spend too little time together, you risk drifting apart and losing your energetic linkage. The ideal balance differs from person to person. To avoid ongoing disappointment and frustration, it’s best to find out what that balance is for each of you before making a long-term commitment.
In any relationship, there will be periods of time where things get out of balance. Candid discussions about this balance are key to avoiding becoming too onesided. Yet such discussions are most effective when each person shows compassion for the other person’s desires and needs while discussing his or her own wishes.
Responding to your partner
While you do not want to develop a pattern of being manipulated by the use of guilt or complaints, it is important to have empathy for your partner’s position and to respond to him or her without getting angry, defensive, or become compliant. You can be compassionate without being controlled.
Have a conversation with your partner and take into consideration your partner’s desires. Find out how he or she envisions spending more time together. Consider whether you are neglecting your partner. If so, discuss with him or her when you could spend more time together and plan to do so. You might also suggest that more positive communication would be more inviting, and perhaps to leave comparisons between your love of surfing and the relationship aside.
Responding to controlling behavior
If the complaint is unwarranted, you might just say, “I love surfing. I hope you want me to do something that makes me happy. I want the same for you.”
When someone is generally controlling and feels threatened easily because of his or her own insecurities, it’s best not to become emotionally reactive. You shouldn’t become hostile, churlish, or apologetic. Instead, keep your cool, and perhaps say, “I love you, but surfing is great exercise, feeds my soul, keeps me balanced and connects me with nature. Loving someone means supporting their passions not restricting them.”
Not buying into his or her emotional heat is key. Keep calm and reasonable yet do not allow yourself to be controlled by his or her fears. If you do, you are walking down the path of emotional fusion toward resentment. Consideration in a relationship is necessary but you shouldn’t start giving up reasonable things that you love to do and you shouldn’t want your partner to do the same.
When people are not differentiated, they lack emotional separation. As a result control and manipulation increase, which leads to greater conflict or over-accommodation at the cost of one’s own desires going underground. Both are unhealthy for the long-term enjoyment of a relationship.
Successful relationships require improving your ability to balance consideration for your partner with respect for your own desires. Consideration engenders the warmth of togetherness, while individual pursuits foster growth and passion. Seeking the right balance for both partners requires an ongoing effort that is well worth it.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD