Time Release Conversation

The concept of a time release conversation relates to the importance for couples every once in a while to review an issue that falls into the “Perpetual Problem” category. This periodic conversation is a “slow-release” communication tools that diffuses an issue that otherwise builds and damages the relationship.

It is important to know that it is NORMAL to have any number of issues that keep showing up in the relationship. Why? Because people have differences in how they think, how they see things, and how their own history shapes these ideas and feelings about certain issues.

Couples who have been happily together for many years have learned to talk about their differences in a gentle way. They act toward their partner like they would with their best friend when there is a disagreement.

Very happy couples can have very different ideas and feelings about a lot of issues. Compatibility does not mean thinking the same, rather, to be compatible as a couple means living together in harmony. How do we do that when we have differences?

Time release conversations can be set in a way that parallels how time release medication is designed. Time release technology has been around since the 1950’s,  created to slowly release the medicine over time. It’s taken less frequently than instant release medication, keeping steadier levels of the drug. So what does this mean when it comes to conversations? Couple who are successful at these conversations have the following characteristic:

  1. Talk about areas of disagreements, don’t avoid them – they will build up and lead to blow-ups, like  unanticipated sneezes
  2. Be gentle in discussing differences with the goal of providing your own perspective. Don’t try to sell or convince your partner of anything. This slow delivery means this conflict isn’t going to be solved once and for all; it’s an ongoing effort, continuing over time, of expressing thoughts and feelings that are predictably going to be different just about every time
  3. Listen to your partners perspective, asking questions to clarify their position and work toward validating that position simply by acknowledging what that position is – you don’t have to agree with it
  4. Come up with a temporary compromise if at all possible
  5. The goal is to have a conversation that respects both positions – because both positions are right, they just happen to be different

Joe and Becky had a fight about what  to do on their vacation to Costa Rica.  Becky was looking forward to a quiet, peaceful and romantic time with Joe. Becky pleaded with Joe. “Joe why you just learn to relax? You always have to be moving”. He was ready for action, and was looking forward to getting away and experiencing new and exciting activities he hadn’t tried before, and countered, “Bec, I just wish you were more adventurous. I feel like sometimes you hold me back”.

This was not a new argument, they had some variation of this conflict since they had known each other. Whether it was about weekend get always or vacations, their preferences boiled down to how much activity would be planned for. Categorizing this conflict  as one of their perpetual issues, due to their differences in preferences, not defects in personality in the other, led to an agreement to compromise on the amount of time spent quietly on the nice beach, and that of engaging in tours and surfing expeditions. Each partner recognized their own needs weren’t wrong, but neither was their partner’s.

Joe will likely always be more adventurous than Becky; Becky will tend to appreciate and prefer less, rather than more, activities when she wants to relax. Learning to continue to dialogue each time, searching for creative ways to, “Give a little, to get a little”, is very good medicine indeed.

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